Murray Stuart Booth, 1963-2010
I want to thank all those who came to my brother’s funeral on Monday 10 May to farewell him and also to those who came to support his family who will miss him so much. In particular, I would like to thank those like Nick Osborne from the London, UK who travelled so far to be with us on Monday. I would also like to thank our dear family friend Jeanne Lange who sang the Irish Blessing for us during a period for reflection after the eulogies and Richard Westmoreland from Randwick Botany Cycling Club who delivered a very touching eulogy. Murray (Muz to us) was a very modest man who never liked a fuss made of himself and I think he would have been quite shocked by the turn out, but I can assure everyone that his whole family has already drawn much strength from all the support shown and kind words said on the day.
These words are based on the eulogy that I struggled to deliver on Monday. I have not been able to tell everyone I know about his death because the day I spent informing my whole family about his death on 2 May was too difficult to believe and not something anyone should ever have to do.
Muz was born in Sydney, but really he grew up in Melbourne as a boy and young man. Most of his high school years were spent at a selective boys school in inner Melbourne and there he played water polo and did well at subjects like Mathematics.
He gained a university entry score, but decided not to continue with formal education, starting work with the AMP in Melbourne after matriculating. He soon started to pursue some of his passions: cars, his dog Tim and bikes. Murray bought a Mini Cooper and started enjoying driving with his close friend Richard. (We were not able to contact Richard before the funeral.) They made some long trips away together in that car including one to deepest Queensland. Soon he acquired a wonderful Newfoundland dog that he called Tim. People say that dogs resemble their owners and I think Tim was a reflection of Murray’s personality. Tim was always puppy-like and one enormous dog who could stand with his paws on my shoulders and lick me fair in the face. He was gentle like Muz but his slobber had all the qualities of Tarzan’s Grip and it made interesting sounds when it hit the walls of the house as he shook it off his snout. They were wonderful to see together and Tim would do anything Muz asked of him. Dad had retired by then, so Tim amused his house colleague while Muz was away at work by eating all of Dad’s pot plants, some of his trees and then made a decent start on the terra-cotta pots. Tim thought he was a person, so soon became Muz’s driving companion in the Mini Cooper. He always sat in the front passenger seat and if I was ever lucky enough to be taken for a drive, I had to squeeze into the small back bench seat around Tim who also got himself in first. Tim became accomplished at rallying on country roads and whilst he never quite made it as a navigator, he did once make it into the driver’s seat indicating to Muz, that he thought it was about his turn to drive.
It was in Melbourne that Muz began his passion for bicycles. He rode with the hard vets of the eastern suburbs in the days of leather soled shoes and road bikes with toe clips. There he learned his road bike skills and eventually saved enough for his first serious bike, having it made by Cecil Walker in Melbourne city. He still loved that bike and it hangs with pride of place in the fleet that fills his garage at home. (I conducted several guided tours of his bike collection during the wake for various family members who did not understand the depth of his passion for bikes.)
I guess what our family also remembers about Muz in Melbourne was his love of the Goodies and the latter Monty Python productions, particularly The Life of Brian and Fawlty Towers. He had a very funny sense of the ridiculous that his sister Mez and I always found very amusing. We will miss his cheeky grin and dimples terribly.
After a while Muz and Tim took a transfer to Tasmania to work in Hobart. He bought himself a home and seemed to enjoy life there for several years. Muz eventually sold up and moved back to the mainland, but Tim would not have handled another shift of climate and he retired to a farm in Tassie.
Muz worked for a time in the AMP in Sydney, but he really hated it and decided to chuck it all in and go to university to study to become an accountant. He enrolled in a Commerce degree at the University of Wollongong and it was there that he met and started dating his wife Jenny. That was over 17 years ago. Over his time in Sydney he continued his passion for cars and first acquired an awful looking Holden HSV Walkinshaw that Mum and Mez called the Spearmint Machine or Ralph because of the sound it made when it roared away. That was eventually replaced by an older Brock HSV The Black Beauty which he still owns. I think Jenny used to call it the brothel car and did not like to be taken anywhere in it. We have a lot in common! He raced both HSVs in club races on tracks around the Sydney region.
About 13 years ago, he married Jenny and I was honored to be their best man at the wedding. I remember the day well because I had never seen my brother so happy. I think that day would only have been matched by the birth of his son Ben and his daughter Alexis. He was completely devoted to his family as a husband and as a father. His family was really his number one passion in life. My sister Mez loved to watch Muz with his kids: their little hands in his big hands was such a sight to behold. Sometimes he just loved to sit and watch them play. I think his wife and children completed him as a person.
I now want to illustrate several of Muz’s traits and characteristics that I’ve not yet mentioned.
Most people who knew him would acknowledge his generosity, with his support and assistance for others and also with his empathy for others. He enjoyed helping many of his friends to purchase the right bike and gear for their needs, often referring to himself as “muz.con” because “.com” was taken. He had helped both his sister Mez and I with moving house several times, providing both heavy lifting and many silly observations to keep us all entertained during those long hard days. Recently, he and Mum helped me unpack a whole house after my move to Sydney in early 2009. He was really glad to see his sister happy (after marrying Phil recently) and me back in Sydney where we could do much more together.
He was gregarious, though he’d not have said that of himself. Whenever we were in bike shops anywhere, someone would say hello to him. And he could work a crowd socially, not as the centre of attention, but because of his genuine openness and warmth. It was his suggestion to buy a dog for Mum and Dad over 11 years ago despite my reservations at the time. It was probably the best gift we ever gave them at Xmas time. Of course, I later claimed all of the credit, but Mum knew all along it was Muz’s idea.
Muz was a very decent man and I think he admired those qualities in our father. He was forgiving, not judgmental, considerate and respectful of others, particularly his Dad, his father-in-law, and many of his friends from cycling. He had long admired two friends from school who became Olympians: John Fox in water polo and Shaun Panayi in diving.
Later in his life he remained passionate about his cars and bikes. He loved Top Gear and would often message or call me while watching the show. He had tickets to take his son Ben to the live show in Sydney. I think he enjoyed everything about cycling: the drama; the sound of a pack spinning together; the colour and scenery; the degree of difficulty; the devotion of the participants; the traditions and legends; the machinery; and the artistry of the bikes. He had learned much from the veterans of the road in Melbourne and in Sydney he rode and raced with the Randwick Botany Cycling Club. He followed that passion most recently by setting up his own business in bike insurance assessment. I think he relished the opportunity to work on something he enjoyed so much. I greatly admired his initiative and his independence.
Muz was my wise counsel for just about everything in life: jobs, houses, superannuation, bikes, and cars. I asked him before making decisions on all of these matters. For the last 10 years or so I think he rated me somewhere between a four year old child and a helpless village idiot. It was a family joke that he would never trust me with important tasks like our BBQs even though he hated doing it himself. 25 years ago I decided to do my first Ironman and it was very very early in the sport’s history in Australia. I sought his advice about getting a proper bike to race it on and he arranged for me to get one built to his specifications by Gordon Hill at Hillman in Melbourne. A year earlier, Gordon had built the frames for the Australian Olympic team in L.A. so when I found that out I really felt unworthy to ride it well enough. Only the best was good enough for his brother. I had given him the old bike after he helped unpack my house in 2009, but I will now restore that bike myself. He sourced or approved all of my racing bikes. I can even remember phoning Muz from a bike store in Honolulu in late 2008 before I purchased a new pair of bike shoes. Recently, he and I converted the bike I last raced in Hawaii into a single-speed bike for inner Sydney streets at Deus in Camperdown. He realised what that bike meant to me and again had to approve all of the changes. It got to the stage where Pierro at Deus would suggest something to me and before I could say anything he would tell me to just ask my brother about it and then get back to him the next day.
Muz was always there for me when I needed him as a friend and a brother. I loved him and I will miss him more than anyone can imagine.