Geoff Torney: ambassador, peacemaker and king

Geoff Torney reaped as he sowed.

The Ballarat leader and “prodigious sower” was remembered by his wife Janet, five children, 14 grandchildren and hundreds who he had known and nurtured at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Tuesday. The horse racing identity and solicitor helped found Aquinas College, now the Australian University’s Ballarat campus, and was knighted by the Vatican for services to Catholic Church.

His eulogy was given by his five children Tony, Matthew and Kate Torney, Jane Valpied and Liz Harris. 

Mr Torney’s son Tony remembered his father as a patient man who “doodled intricate patterns on his legal files”, carried the grief of losing a child – the Torneys’ eldest daughter, Helen – and listened without judgment. 

He drove a lime green BMW – the first in Ballarat – and could be stopped anywhere, at any time by somebody he knew for a chat.

Geoff Torney.

Geoff Torney.

“Dad made his mark in many ways, as ambassador, peacemaker and king. Above all he was the epitome of the phrase ‘you sow as you reap’.

“He was a prodigious sower and an ever better nurturer. Today we celebrate the fruits of a life well-lived.” 

Mr Torney died last Wednesday.

“He scripted his last days well – mum, his five offspring in the confined space of a hospital room talking, arguing, sharing, laughing and crying as he looked on with amusement, and no doubt some pride,” Tony said.

“Most of all dad needed to connect with others. Sharing stories energised him. He was a people person.”

Kate Torney said her father’s last week was “filled with love”.

“No words were left unsaid … At one point during the precious days last week, mum was sitting on the bed next to dad. 

Geoff and Janet Torney with daughter Jane Valpied.

Geoff and Janet Torney with daughter Jane Valpied.

“She leaned over to him and lovingly nuzzled her nose into his cheek and she said ‘I’ve been a bloody good wife to you Geoff Torney’ and she paused and she said ‘and you’ve been a bloody good husband’.

“Dad you were bloody good in whatever role that you played and we are all better people for having known, loved and learned from you.”

Matthew Torney said his father seamlessly interwove his family and community life. “I think one of the lessons from dad’s life is that that richness, that fullness, that bigness wasn’t his alone. His life was so great, he was so great, partly because so many of you were a part of it.”