Much admired former Wagga teacher Bob Whittaker is being remembered by family and colleagues as a great teacher and sportsperson, following his passing at the age of 90 last month.
Over the course of his 37-year career, Mr Whittaker taught thousands of students in Wagga, surrounding towns and beyond.
Born to parents James and Vera Whittaker at Tumbarumba in 1931, he had two brothers Doug and Merv.
Mr Whittaker attended primary school at Westbrook, Upper Oberne Valley near Tarcutta and finished his education at Wagga High School.
He then attended Wagga Teacher's College in 1950 and 1951 before taking up his first appointment at the one-teacher school at Coursing Park in 1952.
At about this time he was heavily involved in both rugby league and union and was also quite successful as a professional boxer, going by the name 'Sprig'.
He was also a talented all-round cricketer known for his cagey leg spin during his many years playing for Lake Albert.
In 1956 Mr Whittaker married the love of his life, Joan, at St Michael's Catholic Church in Wagga, and they went on to have three daughters Michelle, Lisa and Denise.
Over the years, he taught at a number of schools across the region, including at Merriwagga, Deniliquin, Wagga and also at the small town of Coraki on the far north coast.
In 1972 he was appointed headmaster of Turvey Park Demonstration School, and went on to serve there for 17 years.
Former colleagues Ken Davis and Chris Mooney reflected on his time at Turvey Park.
"Bob was a crackerjack teacher," Mr Mooney said.
"He would come into the classroom and tell me to go take a break in the staff room and have a coffee while he took the class for half an hour," he said.
"He just loved to be in the classroom working with kids."
Mr Davis agreed, saying a great thing about Mr Whittaker was he knew all the students.
"He took the time to get to know them," he said.
Mr Davis said his leadership style was to give teachers the initiative.
"If you had leadership potential, or wanted to try out something new, he would give you the opportunity to do it," he said.
"And if you made a mistake, he would be right there to pick you up."
A highlight of recesses and lunchtimes at Turvey Park were the cricket matches that would often erupt in the primary quad with Mr Whittaker always an eager participant.
"He would bowl his leg breaks, which wouldn't spin, only to have the students try and hit the ball over the building," brother-in-law Max McLoughlin said.
"But he would get the last laugh as the ball would inevitably roll off the roof and the batsman would be caught out," Mr McLoughlin said.
Despite this, the students had another tactic which did work.
"They would get Bob to bat just before the bell, then they would refuse to get him out so they could have more play time. It always worked."
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As a demonstration school, Mr Whittaker loved to keep the teaching at Turvey Park to a high standard and had a motto that reflected this, "Turvey leads, the rest follow".
Another motto he loved to recite was, "The best way to kill time is to work it to death".
Retiring in 1989, he could not give up the profession that easily and continued to take fill-in classes for many years.
He passed away peacefully on St Patrick's Day last month and is survived by his wife Joan and their daughter Denise.
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