BILL STAFF OAM
- By Amy McNeilage
Bill Staff had a lifelong passion for the people of Rylstone and published six books about the small country town.
He was a teacher but the endlessly energetic family man was also an admired historian, classically-trained musician, keen dramatist, mentor and generous community contributor.
William Francis Staff was born in Rylstone on February 6, 1918, the son of Frank Staff and his wife, Mary (nee Foodey). He was delivered in the bedroom of the family's Mudgee Street home and was an only child, after his older sister, Mary, died in infancy.
The fifth generation Australian became vice-captain and dux of Kandos High School. He also represented the school in tennis. He was a keen learner and an avid reader from a young age and was awarded a full academic scholarship to Armidale Teachers College.
The college had an impressive collection of original artwork donated by the businessman Howard Hinton, which sparked Staff's lifelong love of art. He also became infatuated with the extensive library and read obsessively.
His first teaching appointment was at Charbon, 10 minutes south of Rylstone, in 1939 and in 1942 he was transferred to Curryall Public School. It was at Yearinan near Coonabarabran, where he taught from 1945, that he met Mary Redden at a Catholic youth group. The two connected through a mutual love of poetry and married in 1953...
Staff was a man of deep faith and a devout Catholic. He played the organ and led the choir at Sunday Mass at St Malachy's Catholic Church, assuming the role from his mother when she died in 1952.
Until entering an aged care facility in his later years, he claimed to have missed Sunday Mass only once in his life. His loyalty to the faith and commitment to the local church was acknowledged in 2007 when he and Mary were awarded the Cross of Honour papal medals...
Bill Staff is survived by Mary, children Conrad, Michael, Corinne, Genevieve and Fleur and 13 grandchildren.