Tony Koop served on the board and as president of Lane Cove Community Aid (now Sydney Community Services) for seven years. Tony passed away at the beginning of January. Here his wife Gabrielle pays tribute to her husband and a friend of many in Lane Cove.
Tony was born in Coogee, the first child of Mary and John Koop and brother of Ann, Rosemary and Gerard. His childhood was spent at Rosebery and he often spoke fondly of family holidays with grandparents at Penrith. His first recollections were of the family home at Rosebery – standing on a wooden bench in the backyard watching fighter planes fly to and from Mascot Airport and of the milkman and his horse and cart.
Tony’s early schooling was at St Joseph’s at Rosebery and later he attended Marcellin College, Randwick. By the time he finished high school he had been a sporting house captain, a prefect, an under officer in the cadets, and represented the school in football, cricket and athletics. Out of school, he belonged to the Police Boys Club and was a member of the Botany Harriers Athletics Club.
Tony went to Teachers College in Bathurst in 1960 to train as a high school maths teacher. This was his first time living away from home and it made a deep impression on him. He loved life at college and country living. He stayed in touch with friends from teachers college and, later in life, became an active member of the alumni association.
Of course, Tony’s teaching career wasn’t the start of his working life. He had a great capacity for work and this was evident while he was still a boy. At the age of 10, he was a paper boy often selling papers as people got on and off trams at the Rosebery Terminus. When he was 13, he had a Saturday morning job at the Coles city store on Oxford Street and an after school job at Flemings packing shelves. Then followed a long list of part time holiday jobs ranging from working at the Coca Cola factories in Alexandria and Kingsgrove, to assembly line jobs and caddying at what is now the Australian Golf Club.
Tony’s first teaching appointment was at Cabramatta High – quite a trip every day from Rosebery driving his father’s FJ Holden. At the same time he enrolled at the University of Sydney in an arts degree majoring in maths. He graduated and went on to complete a masters degree at Macquarie University in 1975 and a PhD at Ohio State University in 1980.
In his third year of teaching, Tony transferred to the Correspondence School at Chippendale which was close to Sydney University and this made it much easier to attend uni at night. A move to Cleveland Street Boys High School in Surry Hills followed and he was promoted to maths master at East Hills Girls a few years later. A good school apparently despite the fact that his first headmistress had some trouble accepting the shorts and long socks he wore to work.
During his 10 years as a teacher Tony married and had two children, Ann-Maree and David. He met his first wife, Jan, while they were both working at a National Fitness Camp, and they were married in May, 1965. He spent numerous school holidays as a counsellor and later, as a director of these camps.
In 1972, after 10 years high school teaching, he took up a position as a lecturer in Teacher Education at Macquarie University. For the next 28 years, Tony remained at Macquarie. He retired on his 59th birthday. He finished his academic career as Coordinator of Postgraduate Studies in the School of Education having supervised the research of over 100 postgraduate students including ten at doctoral level. His students over the years came, not only from teaching, but from a wide range of professions and he was very proud on being made an Honorary Fellow of the Australian College of Nursing in 1996 in recognition of his contribution to nursing education.
In 1987, Tony and I married. He gained three step-daughters, Camille, Louise and Amy and, along with Mikki the cat, we lived in Lane Cove for 22 years.
He might have retired from Macquarie but Tony never really slowed down. After a short break, he got busy and spent the next 10 years or so consulting and teaching for registered training organisations. He was also responsible for overseeing the registration and accreditation of the Kent Institute as a higher education provider and served for several years as the Chair of the Academic Board of Kent Institute.
In 2003, we bought a 300 acre beef cattle farm at Tumbarumba. The 15 years we spent on the farm were among the happiest of Tony’s retirement. He soon became proficient at fencing, cattle work, the never ending battle with weeds and checking the rain gauge. The whole family enjoyed great times on the farm and exploring the surrounding countryside. We were fortunate to sell the farm just a year before the terrible fires tore through the Ournie Valley. We then moved to our apartment in Greenwich for a quieter life.
Anyone who knew Tony, knew about his love of sport. In his earlier years he played cricket, football, tennis and squash. He enjoyed athletics and water skiing. At teachers college, he was a member of the College Rugby Union team which played in the Central West Rugby competition. They were the proud winners of the competition in 1961.
Later in life, he enjoyed tennis (playing at the Beecroft courts on Tuesday night with his good friends for over 20 years), rowing, swimming and cycling. In his 70s he joined the YMCA – the youthfully mature cycling associates – and enjoyed cycling all over Sydney and further afield. During the 1990s and early noughties had been a member of the North Shore Rowing Club at Longueville and loved early morning rowing on the Lane Cove River.
I asked Tony a few years ago which sport he enjoyed most and his answer surprised me. I was expecting football or tennis but, no, ‘athletics’ was his answer. He had been a good runner as a young man and said there was nothing like the exhilaration of running. He also added that rowing was a wonderful sport and loved being out on the water early in the morning.
Travel was another of Tony’s interests. He and Jan, Ann-Maree and David travelled to Western Samoa and Tonga where Tony and colleagues from Macquarie University worked with educators there developing their own school curricula. Later, they lived in the US when Tony undertook further study. In 1986, Tony and David visited Ann-Maree while she was studying in Switzerland.
My first trip overseas was with Tony on our honeymoon in 1987. Travelling with Tony was always exciting and fun. We had some wonderful times together.
Tony led a full and interesting life. He had many good memories and good friends.
Work was important but so were family and friendships. He was very proud of his children and grandchildren and surrounded himself with photos of them in his study. He had six grandchildren – Jackson, Benjamin, James, Megan, Alice and Andrew – and loved spending time with them, giving them advice and even tutoring them, over the years, in maths and physics.
He had many friends and loved meeting up with them. A serious man for sure but one who also liked a laugh. He had a quirky sense of humour that took me years to understand but he didn’t mind people having a laugh at his expense either. He loved meeting Marcellin Old Boys for lunch, going on cycling expeditions and working with and going on outings with members of the Alumni Association and with other close friends and relatives.
He gave back to the community and received a Citizenship Award in recognition of his contribution to Lane Cove Community Aid Service as Board Member and President over seven years. He also enjoyed his role as chair of the strata committee where we live.
For many years Tony had been stoic in facing several serious and confronting health conditions. In 2004, he became ill with cardio myopathy. In 2006, at an appointment with his GP he found he had bowel cancer, kidney cancer and an abdominal aortic aneurysm. After surgery and chemotherapy, Tony’s health remained stable for about ten years but then began to deteriorate in 2018. He showed great courage in facing his final illness.
The day before he died, he resigned by video link as assistant treasurer of his alumni association. Not long afterwards, he received an SMS from one of the committee members. I would like to read you part of it as it seems to sum up so much about friendship.
“When I think about it we’ve known each other for 60 years now and have popped up into each other’s lives at infrequent intervals but it’s always been a happy and purposeful association with lots of fond memories of college days. Do you remember “The Review” when we were in some kind of dance group, and of course the football bus trips and the dances …the college food…? All so long ago, but such sweet memories”.