In the words of Winston Churchill - "we make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."
James Mate made a great life - one dedicated to giving and enriching the lives of others.
James was a unique individual - always warm and engaging, he made an indelible impression on everyone he met.
The former Maitland Boys High School and Maitland Marist Brothers (now All Saints College, St Peter's Campus) teacher, Mr Mate passed away on December 7. He was 86.
In other news:
He was farewelled at a service last week attended by about 150 friends and family at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Morpeth. Sadly because of COVID restrictions many were prevented from attending.
Born in Maitland on April 15, 1935, James was third child of five with three brothers and younger sister Marjorie. With the family home and trucking business based in Hinton, he attended Hinton Infants and Primary School, followed by Maitland Boys High School.
It was during these formative years, that James displayed early signs of his academic prowess and passion for all things sport - strong themes that followed him throughout his life.
He finished high school receiving a scholarship to do an architecture degree at Sydney University, however at 16 his Mum thought he was too young to move in Sydney, so he decided to first find some work experience.
With a strong aptitude for mathematics, he landed his first proper job at the Dungog branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia. James soon endeared himself to the local community through his innately helpful and talkative nature, as well as his ability....as he'd say....to make lots of runs for the local cricket team.
James soon also proved himself to be a valued employee - being meticulous by nature, he recalled as a young 19-year-old being effectively in charge of managing the bank....while his boss managed 'clients' at the pub across the road.
James transferred to the Maitland office, moving back into the family home just south of Hinton Bridge. At the same time, a young lady named Annette Moran had just returned from boarding school at St Joseph's Lochinvar, living on the family farm just north of Hinton Bridge.
While attending the annual Maitland Show, James had a chance encounter with Annette who was attending with her cousin and best friend Julie. After exchanging initial pleasantries, James and Annette went on several rides. They ended the night with James offering to escort Annette home, so they caught the town bus home together - from that moment, a budding romance blossomed and their lives either side of Hinton Bridge became forever entwined.
With James being four years Annette's senior, things moved fast.
"They met when Mum was 16, got engaged at 17, were married at 18, and had their first child Anne at 19. As Mum says, "that was simply how it was done in those days"," said son Matthew Mate.
Children Mark, Helen and Michelle soon followed - by all reports, growing up on the family farm was lots of fun, however with their fifth child on the way, James's architectural nous was put to use to design the family's iconic cape cod house in Tenambit.
"Myself, child number five was born, and when I was six weeks old we moved into what still remains our family home," Matthew said.
"Dad continued to play plenty of sport, with mum doing her best to entertain five children, often at Bar Beach while dad played cricket across the road at Empire Park. In more recent times he reminisced about his sporting exploits - playing 1st grade cricket for Hinton at 12 years of age, playing 1st grade for Newcastle City where he opened the batting and kept wickets, playing doubles in senior-junior tournaments with local tennis pro Don McIlwain. He also, while doing National Service at Holsworth, represented the Armed Forces First XV in Rugby Union," Matthew said.
After his playing days ended, James continued his love affair with sport by taking up rugby league refereeing - like all things he put his mind too, he excelled, and went on to referee in the 1st grade Newcastle competition for many years.
Rewinding 10 years, despite a promising finance career and having completed an accountancy diploma, at age 27 and with three young children, James made the bold and life changing move to pursue a teaching career - he quit work and spent the next two years at Newcastle Teaching College to become a qualified high school teacher, earning money in his holidays by either stoking coal at BHP or cutting millet on the family farm.
James landed his first teaching job at Maitland Boys High School, where he spent the next 11 years.
"It was here that Dad's notion of teaching beyond the 9am to 3pm school hours came to the fore. He was always looking to do more for his students, such as organising annual school trips where he'd take 30-40 students away to places like Tasmania and the Snowy Mountains," Matthew said.
He then moved to Marist Brothers High School at Maitland, where he spent the next 30 years before officially retiring at age 70.
Across his 41 years teaching career, James was always very well prepared for class and enjoyed teaching beyond the textbook - whether it be revealing the wonders of the grasslands of the Tundra or outlining the benefits of the English Premier League to the British Economy, he endeavoured to make student learning more meaningful and current.
"Since his passing, our family have been overwhelmed and deeply touched by the kind tributes shared online by so many of his ex-students - common phrases such as: "a true gentleman, a great role model, an absolute legend". Not my words, theirs. We are so very proud of the positive impact dad had on the lives of so many of his students," Matthew said.
While at All Saints College, James became a highly dedicated and devoted sports coach. School sport proved to be the perfect marriage for his mentoring and writing skills. Whether it be his pre-match team talk or post-match sports report, they were always delivered with plenty of passion and panache.
There were two stand out highlights - winning the State Cricket Berg Shield twice in '93 and '98, and winning the State Football Bill Turner Cup in '88 - this was arguably his most treasured sporting achievement - made more special that he shared the success with fellow teacher and best mate Phil Peate.
Outside of school, his 'giving' continued with multiple coaching and sports administration roles most notably as long serving treasurer at Weston Bears Football Club.
"Post-retirement, dad was honoured for his services to school sport with the introduction of the James Mate Shield - an under-13 football competition, which he took great pleasure in attending each year to present the shield to the winning team," Matthew said.
"Also in retirement, thanks to my sister Michelle living in the UK, dad and mum enjoyed many overseas trips. After a life dedicated to giving to others, it was lovely they were able to experience together the culture of European life. Dad also got the privilege to visit Lords and see the Ashes first hand, as well as watch his football team Tottenham Hotspurs play at White Hart Lane."
Apart from his family and sport, James had one true love - talking.
His gift of the gab was second to none - an affliction that only increased with age. It didn't matter where he was or who he was with, he loved to chat.
His number one topic of conversation was his family - with five children, 15 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren he always had new material. He was exceptionally proud of all achievements great or small....and he made sure everyone knew about them.
"As mum would say: "there's no need for the Maitland Mercury when your father is about". Every proud family moment was delivered like front page news, with no shortage of literary license, and would more often than not be concluded with his standard go to phrase: "Of course, with a grand-father as a school teacher, it's no wonder she's so smart"," Matthew said.
"On a personal note, I fondly recall when visiting my folks, the numerous times that mum would end up saying "Oh Matthew, you are so much like your Father" - it was invariably the not so good traits but nonetheless it brought a beaming grin to James's face. I hope to be more like my father in the future - I'll wear it like a badge of honour, knowing the apple didn't fall too far from the tree.
"As a Father he was always so interested and encouraging in all that we did. As a husband of 64 years, he was devoted and loving - he'd regularly say: "Your mother is marvellous, she's so capable - I don't know what I'd do without her"," he said.
"Great sportsman always want to go out on top. For my father, he went out while still close to his best. Despite recent health issues, he was as sharp and witty as ever, with an enduring propensity to make us all laugh with his grandiose theatrics. He was all class to the very end," Matthew said.
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