A memorial service was held at the Drop In on Thursday 15th September for Jimmy Silas. Residents and staff from Frank's boarding house, community support staff, others who attend the drop in and volunteers all participated in honouring Jimmy's life.
As there were no relatives of Jimmy's at the ceremony people shared what they knew of Jimmy's life. One by one people spoke offering some anecdote or fact or memory. it was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with some many pieces missing.
We discovered that Jimmy's real name was Kaki Biliu and he was born on the island of Daru, Papua New Guinea. Jimmy was born among the bushes in the traditional way of giving birth in the 1940s. As a child he had witnessed a number of attacks on his village by neighbouring villages. He and his siblings hid in the bush until the attackers were driven off. One of his brothers was drowned at sea while trying to cross to the Torres Strait islands.
He came to Sydney and worked for the railway, living for many years in a hut beside the railway line. He assisted with the rescue of people during the Granville train disaster in 1977.
Jimmy had not seen his family in years. He made contact with his sister in Brisbane by phone about seven weeks ago but sadly they had not been able to meet up before his death.
Those who lived with Jimmy spoke of his dignity, his gentleness, kindness and his honesty: his word was his word. He loved classical music and spent his days listening to ABC Classic fm and reading his bible.
He was buried at Riverstone Cemetery, New South Wales on Friday 16th September 2016.
Jimmy is very much missed at the Drop In. May he rest in peace.
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation