SOMEONE asked me the other day what I remember most about Mal Waterhouse.
That's easy ... his cheeky sideways grin he would throw at me every morning.
It was that grin and a "Here's that lovely lady from The Courier", followed by "I must thank your mother for having you", that greeted this then fresh-faced journalist at the courtroom door of the former Ballarat Courthouse building in Camp Street on almost a daily basis in the mid-to-late-1980s.
The first time I met Mal was late 1986, only months after moving to Ballarat on the completion of my cadetship in Mildura.
Like most journalists back then, I was handed a notebook and pen and was told "you have to cover court today".
This was a daunting task for someone so young and inexperienced at court reporting, but it was a task I could quite easily have failed if it wasn't for Mal Waterhouse.
It was Mal, the Victoria Police reservist, who taught me - and, I suspect many other Courier journalists - the dos and don'ts of courtroom etiquette, like when to stand and sit, when to bow to the magistrate and, most importantly, to never, ever chew gum in the courtroom.
It was also Mal who was there to help me out with names of magistrates, names of lawyers and prosecutors and, again, most importantly, names of the accused. For it was Mal, who, armed with a list of defendants to appear that day, had the task of yelling into the foyer of waiting people the name of the next defendant to front the magistrate. Mal got me out of a pickle on many occasions when I didn't quite hear the name of the defendant standing in the docks.
But, to this day I've wondered how Mal actually remembered which case was coming up next, because, I suspect, he was using the minutes and sometimes hours while each case was being heard to have a snooze on his trusty stool at the courtroom door. Maybe he was listening to the proceedings ... while his arms were folded, his head was bowed and his eyes were shut.
But, to his credit, after the magistrate's associate called "Next case", Mal "seemed" to be on the ball.
On a more serious note, I also remember Mal Waterhouse as a man of strong integrity and honesty, a person who would never judge and who would always have kind words to say.
I attended Mal's funeral at St Peter's Church yesterday. It was a true celebration of Mal's life as a loving husband to Bev, as a devoted father to Petrina, Sandra and Peter, as a doting grandfather, as a proud Victoria Police member, as a person who suffered Parkinson's Disease, but most of all, as a mate.
As a final farewell to this man I was privileged to know, I think it should be us, his family, his friends, his colleagues and the entire Ballarat community, who should be thanking Mal's mother for having him.
Rest in peace, you lovely guy from the law courts.