Tribute: Owen Vincent Curnow

VALE: Bendigo MICA paramedic Owen Vincent Curnow saved the lives of many during his 30-year career with Ambulance Victoria. Picture: SUPPLIED
VALE: Bendigo MICA paramedic Owen Vincent Curnow saved the lives of many during his 30-year career with Ambulance Victoria. Picture: SUPPLIED

How will your life matter?

These were the words spoken during the opening message at the Bendigo Baptist Church on Friday, as hundreds of family and friends farewelled a man who touched the lives of so many.

Owen Vincent Curnow lived a life that mattered. As a father, a husband, a brother, a son, a friend, a colleague. 

He was a man widely known throughout the Bendigo and greater central Victorian community and will be remembered as a remarkable man who led a life well-lived.

The sounds of Aussie rock filled the church as more than 1100 people gathered to pay tribute to the Bendigo MICA paramedic.

During the service Mr Curnow was spoken of as a man who loved his family, his friends, his sport, his music and his work.

He was “fondly remembered by his colleagues as being a very genuine and generous and an overall good bloke”. 

Mr Curnow was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer in 2013 and lost his fight with the disease on Tuesday, aged 55.

GUARD OF HONOUR: Emergency services officers, footballers and netballers lined the exit to the church on Friday as Owen Curnow was farewelled.

GUARD OF HONOUR: Emergency services officers, footballers and netballers lined the exit to the church on Friday as Owen Curnow was farewelled.

Ambulance Victoria chief executive Tony Walker spoke of the respect for which Mr Curnow treated his patients and fellow colleagues of whom he was a mentor.

“His colleagues tell me that they would call him ‘Mr Ambulance’ – he was so well-known and patients were more interested in speaking to him rather than give you a history of their particular medical problem,” he said during the service.

“Over his almost 30-year career with Ambulance Victoria, Owen touched the lives of thousands of patients, many of whom who are alive today and have had the opportunity to go on and live long lives as a result of Owen’s efforts. And in them, and the generations that follow, his legacy lives on.”

The air ambulance flew overhead at the conclusion of the service, with MICA paramedics and members from Ambulance Victoria, Victoria Police, CFA, SES, Strathfieldsaye Storm and Calivil United forming a guard of honour as a tribute to Mr Curnow.

Eulogy 

Owen Vincent Curnow was born at the Pyramid Hill Bush Nursing Hospital on Friday the 19th of May 1961; a son for Kathleen (Kath) and William (Bill) Curnow.

Kath and Bill were model parents, and Owen was truly grateful to them for raising him on their family farm. Owen was apparently an adventurous young boy, who loved playing outdoors and was touted as being quite game, cheeky and somewhat mischievous.

Owen was the apple of his father's eye, and from a very young age Bill had introduced him into the farming scene.

Bill was fantastic father, who would often take Owen for a ride on the tractor, motorbike or in the ute, teaching him the gears, clutch, brakes, accelerator, etc. Bill taught Owen how to drive, ride or operate every item of farm machinery they had.

As a primary school age kid, Owen could drive the car, utes, tractors, trucks and also ride the farm motorbikes, sometimes with absolutely no respect.

Bill also taught Owen other farming skills including shearing sheep, slaughtering and butchering a prime lamb to eat, milking the house cow by hand, bottle feeding and hand rearing prime lambs and poddy calves, sowing wheat, barley etc, grain harvesting, cutting raking and baling hay, welding and metal fabrication, building a haystack, construct farm fencing just to name a few.

Owen also learned how to provide meals by living off the land. He regularly caught nice redfin either by rod and reel, or in his homemade drum nets. He usually fished in the house dam, filled via the Bullock Creek, or from the Waranga irrigation channel which ran through some of the property.

Owen also knew how to catch a feed of yabbies, or even trap or shoot a feed of rabbit, or shoot a feed of local wild black or wood duck.

Owen had always maintained that growing up on the farm allowed him to learn a myriad of life's physical and psychological skills; also maintaining that urban or city raised kids that he has met during his life had unfortunately missed out on achieving quite a number of these skills. Owen said this made him a more adaptable creative and confident person, particularly during his long career as a MICA paramedic ambulance officer.

Bill also taught Owen all levels of vehicle and equipment servicing, safety etc. from a 2 or 4 stroke small engine, up to VS truck or diesel tractor engines etc.

Bill also encouraged Owen to earn "pocket money" from an early age. Owen recalled growing pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc in his own vegetable patch, for which he sold to a fruit and vegetable shop in High Street, Eaglehawk.

Owen also raised orphaned baby lambs, and bought "poddy calves" from local dairy farmers which he bottled fed until they were weaned to pasture. Once fattened, Bill would truck them down to Bendigo sale yards to sell by public auction. During his schooling years, Owen also earned extra income performing labour for local farmers, including tractor driving, hay carting or roustabouting.

Owen also vividly recalls 'farm vermin control'. He did this with Bill, often joined by Tom and Russell, and the late Malcolm Boom. It involved 'spotlighting' from the back of the farm ute, either to shoot rabbits or foxes (which was one of Owen's favourite pastimes), and then skinning the pelts from the foxes to sell to a skin buyer in Castlemaine.

As a youngster, Owen used to ride his push bike around the Calivil district to go either fishing, shooting or bird nesting, or visiting mates.

Owen, together with sisters Sandra, Laurel and Elizabeth, all attended the East Loddon Consolidated School, which Owen referred to as the "East Loddon University". 

Owen commenced prep grade in 1965, finishing high school in 1977.

In 1978; Owen enrolled to undertake a three-year agricultural apprenticeship course at the Bendigo Technical College. He was apprenticed by his parents (Bill and Kath), with the course requiring approximately 10 weeks per year classroom theory and outdoor practical lessons etc.

Owen was always keen to learn more about the Australian outdoors. Owen became a member of the East Loddon Cub's group; then progressed to the East Loddon Scouts Group. This participation allowed Owen to gain invaluable knowledge and confidence to camp out 'under the stars' from a very young age.

Learning the skills of camping, bush walking and hiking became second nature to him. He loved nothing more than camping up the river, sitting around the campfire, maybe a fishing line in the water, then sleeping on camp stretcher in a canvas tent (or nowadays a swag).

Owen recalls playing in consecutive junior cricket premierships (1974-75 and 1975-76), and one senior premiership (1985-86) for the Calivil Cricket Club. Owen was awarded the most valuable player in the senior grand final win. He made 24 not out and took 5 for 14 in their win over Pyramid Hill.

Owen went on to play senior cricket at the mighty Kingower Cricket Club, and also a short playing career at Sedgwick before joining the Emu Creek Cricket Club.

It was at Emu Creek where Owen fulfilled his dream of playing "father and son cricket" with his son Bryce, in a competition match. Owen recalls that moment was one of his best ever personal cricket achievements.

Owen also played football with the Calivil Football Club. He recalls playing in predominately weak junior football teams with limited finals experience.

As a 16-year-old, Owen began to play a few senior games, but once again the club was starved of success. Owen played yearly Interleague football games for the Loddon Valley Football League eg; under 16s, under 19s and under 21s, also making the 1977 "All Star" team.

During the 1980 football season; (the year that Bill died), Owen went on to win the Calivil Football Club's Senior's Best and Fairest Award as an 18-year-old/19-year-old.

It was an honour dear to his heart, and Owen would quietly comment with the quote "That one was for you Dad". Unfortunately for Owen; his football career came to an abrupt end during the 1982 Senior Loddon Valley Football League interleague match.

He ruptured both his Anterior cruciate and Medial ligaments of his right knee, requiring a total knee reconstruction. Owen attempted a return to football a couple of years later, however his career virtually ended in 1986 following further knee surgery.

Although no longer able to play competitive football, Owen remained a loyal and passionate Calivil supporter for all his life; fortunately seeing the club rise from the unsuccessful to the highly successful position that it is today.

Owen was an active member of the organising committee which held the highly successful "125 year" reunion of the Calivil Football and Netball Club in July 2015.

Owen and Russell also became sporting team mates at Calivil, playing with both the Calivil Football Club and the Calivil Cricket Club’s junior and senior teams.

Due to a football player shortage it was not uncommon for them both to play an under-16s game immediately followed by a reserves game, therefore playing up to 8 quarters in a day.

A baptism of fire for sure playing against the big boys at such a young age. However, we both learned to accept the “big hits and tackles”  for which we began to hand out earlier when we became senior players for Calivil.

Bill was a quiet natured gentleman a truly devoted husband and irreplaceable father. For Owen, Bill’s death hit home particularly hard.

Owen had not only lost his father as an 18 year old; but ultimately he had lost his mentor, his guide, his teacher, his confidant and his actual "work mate".

Owen was truly indebted and totally appreciative to all the local Calivil and Pompapiel farmers who passed on sound and logical farming advice and knowledge to him and Kath during those difficult early years following Bill's passing.

Without their help, things would never have progressed so successfully over the years. This assistance also ensured that Owen confidently grew into the farm management role and gained a better perspective on how to run the farm. Owen successfully completed his Agricultural Apprenticeship.

Owen continued to manage the farm with Kath for nearly 7 years after Bill's passing. This was enough time for Owen to understand what was required to effectively manage a demanding irrigation property - the demands on his lifestyle and what would lie ahead in the future.

Owen had another career lifestyle in his mind; namely as an ambulance officer or then referred to as an "ambo"; and he was determined that he could achieve that goal.

In early 1987; with the full support of Kath, the difficult decision was made to sell off the Calivil irrigation farm. The property had been in the Curnow family for over 50 years, however the time was right to sell. (The 750 acre dry land farm at Pompapiel east of Serpentine was kept).

Owen was then offered and accepted a full time job as an "Ambo", stationed at Inglewood.

Student Ambulance Officer training required 12 weeks per year in Melbourne, undertaking lectures or clinical placements for the first 3 years of employment as well as shifts in Bendigo.

Once his 2 year training on the Bendigo roster was completed, Owen was due to commence full time on the Inglewood Ambo roster on February 1989.

However; (and fortunately for Owen), there had been a staff vacancy created on the Bendigo 24 hour roster, and coincidentally there was an "Ambo" from Melbourne who was wanting to be posted full time at the Inglewood branch.

In February 1989, Owen was officially offered and accepted a "full time" position on the Bendigo Ambulance roster. Owen was enjoying the busy workload and experience gained thus far, and his dream to become a full time "Ambo" rostered in Bendigo had now been fulfilled.

Owen officially qualified as an Ambo in 1990 completing a three year Associate Diploma in Health Science (Ambulance Officer).

In February 1993, Owen applied for and in 1994 was appointed to the local Bendigo Retrieval team Ambulance, a position he held for just over two years. Owen gained invaluable knowledge and experience as a "Retrieval" team member, often saying that it was a great kick start into the M.I.C.A Paramedic career that he was about to apply for.

In early 1993, the Metropolitan Ambulance Service (MAS), "Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance" (M.I.C.A) course became available for all regional Victorian "Ambo's" (post two years graduation) to apply to undertake.

Owen was offered a four month on-road clinical placement based at M.I.C.A. Branches within Melbourne. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work under Clinical supervision with some of Melbourne's most senior experienced M.I.C.A. Paramedics.

Owen commenced his Melbourne on-road placement in 1995 at the M.I.C.A. 4 branch, located in Heidelberg. Other M.I.C.A. Branches that Owen undertook clinical placement were Coburg, Laverton and Bendigo.

After successfully completing the mandatory 20 week M.I.C.A student Clinical Supervision component and also passing his oral M.I.C.A. Paramedic "Panel" exam, Owen qualified as a M.I.C.A Paramedic and graduated in August, 1996.

Owen believed in the principle that you "win some and you lose some" but you have a go.

Terry Egan held a management position with the Armaguard Security Company, in Bendigo and asked me if I would be interested in becoming a part time armed security guard.

Owen commenced with Armaguard, Bendigo in June 1994, mainly working on the Bendigo "town truck" run with colleagues Barry "Bully" Bull, and the late Dave Bending.

Owen is the proud father of two children, Rochelle Louise, born on December the 26th,1989 (aged 27), and Bryce William, born on September the 25th, 1991 (aged 25).

Owen rates them both as two of the greatest kids in the world. There have been many wonderful memories of all the fun, happy adventurous times we had together.

Owen also had a strong passion for watching both Rochelle and Bryce play competitive sports. Owen never ever put either of his children above others, and was just rapt to get along to their games to watch them "have a go".

In January 1999, Owen met the new love of his life – Ellen Wilson, a Div 1 registered nurse in the emergency department at Bendigo Hospital.

Owen and Ellen married in a ceremony at the Bendigo Chinese gardens on New Year's Eve 2006, the best wedding that Owen and Ellen could ask for.

Apart from travelling and holidaying with Ellen, Owen loved his fishing trips.

Owen was born a 'petrol head' for sure with cars or motorbike racing running through his veins from a very young age.

Drag racing events often with three of his mates namely Matt Nabbs, Neil Harvey and Borry. They followed the drags regularly at 1/4 mile strips around Australia.

In 2009, Owen and Ellen attended a full day "sprint cup" Nascar racing event at the Michigan International raceway, near Detroit.

Russell Boom and Owen used to regularly attend the Bendigo Speedway on Saturday nights Owen always loved both cars and motorbikes sliding around the dirt tracks and a few good prangs made for a fun night.

Owen has also attended the World Superbikes and the Moto GP events at the Phillip Island race track. Owen has also enjoyed attending several V8 Supercar events across Australia and New Zealand. Driving a V8 supercar was on Owen's bucket list. Owen's dream was realised when he completed 9 full laps of the Sandown V8 circuit in Melbourne.

No bucket list would be complete without the boy's trip to 'Birdsville Races' in outback Queensland. Owen and 5 mates, including Rod Baker and Peter Sexton attended the event in 2010 with the Saturday race day declared a washout. For the first time ever in its 128 year history, the Birdsville Cup was not able to be run due to rain. We did however, witness five races at Friday's event on the dusty dirt racetrack before the rain set in.

On the 25/2/2013 Owen, at age 52, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Terminal Kidney Cancer. It was an absolute shock to be given the news and Owen recalls his first question was "how are we going to get rid of this"?

Over the past four years there were multiple professional medical staff who have provided care and treatment to support Owen through his fight. I cannot forget my primary Oncologist, Dr. Walter Cosalo and his staff at the John Fawkner Hospital Cancer Unit.

Dr. Cosolo had thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at Owen's treatment and I indeed thank him so much for being pro-active right up until the end.