From Damien of Devotion.
Our Brother Bruce Barlow-Barker passed to the Grand Lodge Above on Wednesday, 17th February 2010.
Bruce had attended our last meeting and was in typical good spirits.
Special arrangements had been made to meet Bruce an hour before lodge to allow his wife Merlina to go to the movies. Merlina is well known amongst our Lodge members, not only having supported the Lodge when Bruce was Master by preparing meals for us, but beyond that time as well. In total Merlina generously catered for Devotion for six years. In recent years every time Bruce attended Devotion from the family home in Mooroolbark, it was Merlina who drove him (in the Holden!) thereby allowing us to share time with Bruce in the Lodge. Bruce being there meant a lot to us all. And it meant a lot to him. I vividly recall with a smile Merlina admonishing Bruce last November at the Carringbush Hotel for ordering a meal with chips. He was not supposed to eat them because of their cholesterol content. She removed about half and Bruce tucked into the balance with youthful glee.
Last meeting was a day of torrential summer rain at Gipps Street. Bruce spent the hour before lodge chatting and helping to attend to some water where it was not supposed to be, searching for the disappeared appearance book (which appeared with our secretary Norm), moving about with the keys opening doors, the lodge and sorting out our paraphernalia.
So we got to spend an hour with Bruce before Lodge started in January. The importance of such times can easily be taken for granted - a mistake many of us make with those close to us.
During the meeting Bruce acted as IPM and was having trouble with his lines. Our DC, Andy McKay, quietly slipped up behind him and, with a hand on each of Bruce’s shoulders, helped him with his words. I will now always remember both of them smiling at me during those moments and how taller Andy looked over Bruce’s head. Bruce had brought a camera to Lodge and asked we take some photos of him in the Master's Regalia. So there is a record of Bruce’s attendance beyond our fond memories of him. This record consists of his proud and smiling face standing before the Masters Chair at the last meeting he attended at Gipps Street.
I was privileged to witness the Celebration of Bruce's life at the Lilydale Memorial Park on Monday 22 February. Lodge Devotion was well represented on short notice by myself as WM, Stephen P our current SW together with his wife Sue, Colin G and Peter B. On behalf of the Lodge I thank them for representing Devotion and supporting the Barlow-Barker family. Circumstances such as being interstate, at the doctors, engaged in other Masonic duties and at work sadly precluded others attending, and I can reassure those absent Brethren than Bruce’s funeral was very meaningful and Lodge Devotion presence appreciated.
Bruce's cousin gave one of the eulogies. Freemasonry, the Old Melburnians and especially Devotion were as prominent in the testimony to Devotion Newsletter 3 Edition No 43, February-March 2010 Bruce’s life as they had been in his affections and actions. An Entered Apprentice apron, sprig of acacia and the usual words also featured in the ceremony.
Bruce's early life was marked by several steamship trips. To Tasmania as a baby in 1929 to live, then to India, Scotland and France even before reaching the ripe old age of two. In 1937 polio closed Bruce's School and by that time at the age of nine when living in Darjeeling Nepal, Bruce was speaking fluent Hindi. The outbreak of WW2 saw the family return to Melbourne where Bruce completed school at Melbourne Grammar. By 17 Bruce was jackarooing around Seymour and Yea, where he lasted 3 months (on 25 shillings). He left to pursue more profitable pursuits. Soon after school he attended and graduated from Dookie, Victoria's oldest agricultural school at Shepparton. Leaving secondary school started Bruce started his professional life's focus on the wool industry and business. Bruce started True Grade Textiles in Nicholson Street, Brunswick. In 1947 he started attending night school 2 nights per week. Bruce became a wool classer and was also a shearer. In 1960 was made a life member of the Wool Classing Association. A representative from the Association spoke at Bruce’s funeral about his contribution to the industry and his advocacy for shearers pay and working conditions. He spent much time on the road in the wool industry and pursing business interests. These travels were undertaken a long series of Holdens. His first car purchased in 1948 was a Holden FX which cost twice the average annual wage. In 1971 Bruce's car was a coveted Golden Monaro. That model can sell for almost $200,000 now. Like others, Bruce lost "a considerable fortune" in the 1980's and few Lodge Members would have known of his considerable fortune from diverse interests such as Allied Cleaning which he started in 1983.
Bruce was initiated on the 1st of June in 1960 and was made a Master Mason in August the following year in a Lodge at Yea. He joined Lodge Devotion in 1993 and in August 2001 was installed as Master. In 2000 he joined Old Melburnians Lodge and one of their members spoke at the funeral.
He was talking about much of this in January, especially his professional life. Like many men, he was a little mysterious. I never heard him mention he had been married three times (in 1958, 1971 & 1 Sept 1990) nor of the daughter Mary Rose, born in 1992 and who survived only three hours. Nevertheless Bruce would always update us on Merlina, and he was proud of his daughter Kathy. He would also sometimes talk about other loves like fishing and hockey. What he did not focus on was a quadruple bypass surgery and a 22 day stay in intensive care in 2006. At that time Bruce was told he had 2-5 years life expectancy and to "take every day as a bonus". He never mentioned that, but on reflection, he certainly showed it in his attitude and warmth and they way he embraced life and those around him.
Bruce will be sorely missed.