Large numbers of friends, past students, fellow former athletes, parishioners and a loving family sent John Chilvers prayerfully to God at the concelebrated Requiem Mass in St Pius X Church in Manning on Tuesday, July 16.
The main celebrant, Father Hugh Galloway, was taught by John in 1961.
From 1961, for 31 years, John Chilvers was an institution at Aquinas College.
He taught countless students English, History and Economics and for more than a decade coached a select few to win for Aquinas almost all hurdle events at the Public Schools ‘Inters’.
He rose to be Deputy Principal and had the role of Administrator before he retired.
John Chilvers was born on October 1, 1930 in Busselton, the youngest child of Perce and Alice Chilvers who, like many in the depression, lost their farm and later lived in Mount Hawthorn.
John was educated at St Mary’s Primary School and later by the Christian Brothers in Leederville.
When he completed his Leaving Certificate in 1948, he commenced employment as a Clerk in the Commonwealth Public Service with the Post Master General’s Department.
He was given a Cadetship which enabled him to complete an Arts Degree, majoring in Economics, at the University of Western Australia which was to later help determine his future career.
At the end of the Second World War, the Church in Australia established the Young Catholic Workers Movement modelled on the movement begun by Fr (later Cardinal) Joseph Cardijn in Belgium in 1912.
It flourished in the parishes, creating a camaraderie among Catholic youth, the like of which is not seen today.
About the time John commenced work, the YCW Athletic Club was formed and was participating in the WA Amateur Athletic Association inter-club competition at Leederville Oval. He was prominent in athletics at CBC Leederville and eager to join.
This was the beginning of close friendships with many, which continued for more than 60 years.
John was a self-taught hurdler which was unfortunate because, while it requires speed and strength, which he had, it was essential to perfect the correct technique.
There was no hurdles coach in the club. Nevertheless, one of the early reports published in The Record was: “John Chilvers, a much improved hurdler, finished close behind the winner to take second place in the A Grade 120 yards high hurdles.
As he is still young, John shows great promise as a hurdler – perhaps a future State Champion.”
John’s athletic career suffered several disruptions through 1952 and 1953 with ankle injuries and a temporary transfer by the Department to Adelaide.
He was not available to defend his 120 yards high hurdles title, which was won by his close friend and team mate John Fraser.
But he came back with a vengeance in 1954. In the State Championships, he won the high hurdles title back and went within inches of winning the 440 yards title, which was won by his team mate Adrian Haydock.
In 1954, the YCW Club proved that it was the most powerful athletic club in WA and possibly in Australia by winning 12 of the 13 trophies.
Another great achievement of the YCW was the popular dances it ran every Saturday night in Victoria Park, Highgate and occasionally in Subiaco.
Many romances developed at these dances resulting in marriage, one of which was that of John Chilvers and Nannette Hennessy who married in St Mary’s Cathedral on October 5, 1957.
The preparation for this great occasion meant the winding down of an active athletic career.
A short time after the wedding he was promoted to a training officer in the Colombo Plan Section of the Commonwealth Public Service Board in Canberra.
This was a brief appointment and they returned to Perth before the birth of their son Tony in 1958.
A short time later John was transferred to Tasmania as an assistant superintendent in the PMG in Hobart, where their second son Paul was born in 1960.
Two expat West Australians, Noel and Betty Roberts, were his godparents.
Hobart is not Perth and there was a strong yearning to return. At the same time, John was reconsidering his vocation in life, which was to be a teacher in Catholic Schools.
He wrote to a friend, asking him to explore the possibilities in Perth.
His friend only wrote to the Principle of Aquinas College, highly recommending him, pointing out the he had an Economics Degree and emphasising that he was also several times the State high hurdles champion.
That was all it required for John to take up an offer and return to Perth.
John commenced his teaching career in the first term in 1961. He committed himself to complete a Diploma of Education at Curtin University, but was thrust into the classroom without it.
A measure of his success with no teaching experience or qualification was expressed 51 years later in the West Australian death notices: “Fond memories of our time together at Aquinas. From the class of 62.”
At this time Aquinas College extended out to Hope Avenue in Manning. The Brothers decided to sell a strip of bushland running parallel with Hope Avenue. John and Nannette purchased a block, 50 Roebuck Drive, and built a house in time for the birth of son Tim.
It enabled John and the boys to walk across the playing field to school. It is still the Chilvers family home.