THE Friends of the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens should have been gearing up for “the ride of our lives”.
Instead, committee member Patrice O’Shea said the life of its 2014 president, Stuart Rattle, had been “violently and shockingly cut short”.
“But he lives on in all of us,” Ms O’Shea said. “He has taken a little of us with him.”
Ms O’Shea was one of four speakers at Mr Rattle’s public memorial service at St Peter’s Church, Daylesford, yesterday which remembered a “culinary champion”, a “green-fingered guru” and a “very, very wise man”.
Ms O’Shea said Mr Rattle quickly became the group’s linchpin after he first approached them in Daylesford’s main street at a 2010 plant sale.
“At the time we were a handful of folk with less than $1000.”
She said Mr Rattle joined the group, told them to start “thinking big” and used Musk Farm open days to boost its finances, raising $65,000 in one day alone.
She said he was very chuffed when he was elected the group’s vice-president.
“He said ‘I’ve never been vice-president of anything!’”
Ms O’Shea said the assembled mourners were grieving two people, with Mr Rattle’s partner Michael O’Neill charged with murder after his body was found in his burnt-out South Yarra flat on December 9.
“The questions are going round and round in our head and there are no answers,” she said.
Long-time friend Linda Paltoglou said Mr Rattle’s love of gardening stemmed from his grandparents.
“He would go to a nursery and follow the owner around asking question after question,” Ms Paltoglou said.
She said his teenage bedroom could be described as “quite the Englishman’s quarters” and the first couch he ever bought had the same leather as used in a Rolls-Royce.
She said his interior designs were timeless, beautiful and functional.
“He wanted his clients to feel it, not just see it.
“He also cherished his association with the Friends of Wombat Hill. He felt at home here, his roots were firmly planted.”
Friend Simone Semmens said there was nothing Mr Rattle would have enjoyed more than seeing his friends gathered for his funeral, which he had always planned to be held at St Peter’s, with baroque music and “chicken sandwiches and champagne”.
“He managed to find the irony and the satire in most things,” Ms Semmens said.
“He loved to share everything he created. Soon God’s house will never look so good.
Friend Wayne Cross said Stuart was very influential in his life, despite only meeting him a few years ago when he first bought Musk Farm.
“He was a generous benefactor to the local community,” Mr Cross said.
“He not only changed our homes but he changed what we ate, what we drank and how we dressed.
“Stuart was our mentor. He taught me how to be a good friend and how to give back what you get.”
A private funeral for Mr Rattle was held in Melbourne last Friday. Mourners also brought their favourite photos of Mr Rattle to yesterday’s service.