IT WAS an act of love that couldn’t have been more fitting.
John “Happy” Gill pulled up his chair and sat beside the coffin of his late wife Margaret and opened a Budweiser beer.
The memories that would have flooded through his mind during his “last drink” with his wife could only be imagined.
The level of grief would be something only he could understand.
This was his farewell toast.
There wasn’t a dry eye among the crowd of mourners who had travelled from every corner of Australia to say goodbye to Mrs Gill at The Rock cemetery this week.
Among them were Australian champions from every event in rodeo. There were fellow contractors and rodeo officials as well as the next generation of junior riders who watched on with grief clearly evident on their faces.
The music Tear in my beer by Hank Williams played as Mr Gill farewelled his wife, best mate, and staunch business partner.
Steve Bradshaw spoke on behalf of the Australian Professional Rodeo Association (APRA) – an association that both Mr Gill and Mrs Gill hold life membership to.
He described the couple as “rodeo royalty” and he delivered a testimony to Mrs Gill’s courage, kindness, and determined approach in getting things done.
Mr and Mrs Gill were known for their ability to hold the reins at one of Australia’s most well known and successful rodeo stock contracting businesses.
But the depth of Mrs Gill’s life and contribution stretched much further.
She was an extremely successful barrel racer and accumulated plenty of accolades as a bronc rider.
But aside from having the skills and bravery to master the toughest of broncs and also be a decorated competitor she had a soft side too.
Her love for animals was clearly evident and there was testimony after testimony given at her funeral which backed up this life-long commitment.
During the eulogies people spoke of this commitment and love for her animals which also ignited her ethic for hard work.
And she had a gift for mentoring the next generation too with her grandchildren speaking of her kindness, loyalty and wisdom.