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ILETT, John W. 'Jack'

John William (Jack) Ilett

Former Commander with the Northern Territory Police

Born 18/1/1939

Joined the Force 24/2/1961

Retired 2/12/1995

Died 2/12/2007 – Aged 68

ILETT, John W. 'Jack'
ILETT, John W. 'Jack'

Jack Ilett seated 2nd from the right during an NCO Course around 1979 at the Cavenagh Street Training Centre.
Jack Ilett seated 2nd from the right during an NCO Course around 1979 at the Cavenagh Street Training Centre.

Eulogy by Roger ILETT


18 January 1939 - 2 December 2007

"It is not the things we get, but the hearts we touch, that will measure our success in life."

Welcome and thank you for attending this memorial for my Dad, John William (Jack) ILETT, who was born on this day 18th January 1939. Dad was the ultimate husband, father, grandfather, great grand father, brother, uncle and friend. He made an impression, he touched people's lives in a special way.

John William ILETT was born on the 18th January 1939 at Richmond, Victoria, he was the youngest son of Oscar and Mary Ilett. His siblings were Francis (dec), Mary & Charles (dec). As a child Dad was known as JB, John Bub, because for the first 12 months of his life he cried day and night. In late 1939 the family moved to Tocumal were he commenced his schooling. Toucumal was an airforce base and Dad and Charles would dress up in their tin hats and wooden guns waiting for the enemy, to defend their country.

Dad always had an intense dislike for water, which is why he never learned to swim. When he was 3 he almost drowned when he fell into the Murray River. When he came to he said, "it was dark down there Dad." In the 70's he saved a young boy he discovered on the bottom of the Nightcliff pool while everyone was swimming around him. In 1946 the Family moved back to the diary farm known as OLIVEBANK at Beeac, not far from Colac in Victoria.

Dad was a stocky sort of chap with short legs; Aunty Pat had to dinky him everywhere because he couldn't reach the pedals of a normal bicycle. The family had to find a smaller bike to suit him so he could be part of the trio and ride every where with his brother & sister. Dad had a fear of large dogs. He had being attacked by an Irish Setter in Beeac when he was a young boy. Dad held this fear throughout his life, although you wouldn't have known. This probably explains the swift disappearance of several dogs that attacked us kids over the years.

Dad had a gentle nature which he showed during the extended illness of his mother. He would come home from school and ask his bed ridden mum if there was anything that he could do for her? Everyday he would attend to her needs, what ever they were.

Dad continued his schooling at the Beeac Primary School and later Colac High School. He reached Grade 8. He played cricket and football and was respected as a hard but fair sportsman. On of the highlights of Dad's life was being in the crowd when Bradman played his last innings and was out for a duck.

Dad's mum died in 1952 and his beloved Sister Aunty Pat looked after her younger brothers as she promised her mother. Dad had a very special and close relationship with his sister and her husband Uncle David. The Family Farm could not support the whole family so one of Dads first jobs was bagging onions which he didn't enjoy too much. He then went with Uncle David digging drains. He escaped being killed in a cave in at work. His boss had asked him to make a cuppa, whilst he was doing this his co worker also 17yrs was killed. Dad then tried for the Victoria Police Force but wasn't accepted because he was too short. Dad then joined the State Railways and ended up in South Australia. He did jobs in remote areas & his work took him to Port Augusta, to the dances & girls.

When Dad moved away from Victoria he became known and was introduced to as Jack, so for the next 45 yrs throughout South Australia and the Northern Territory he was known as Jack Ilett. When Mum and Dad retired to South Australia he wasn't too fussed to be known as Jack but in the last 12 months of his life whenever Mum introduced him as John he said no its Jack. Dad was introduced to Mum a day after her 16th birthday at the dances held in Port Augusta. Mum always said you were the best dancer Dad. The dancing continued for many years and often us kids would watch you and Mum glide across the dance floor in awe.

Dad applied to join the NT Police Force but he had to wait to turn 21. One of the conditions was that he had to be single; you didn't have to swim in those days. In 1961 Dad was successful in his application and when he told his father he was off to the Territory to be a Policeman his father said "your bloody mad you'll die of thirst up there."

In Feb 1961 Dad joined the Commonwealth of Australia Police Northern Territory - registered Police Officer number 125. Others in his squad was Norma Bailey who married Saus Grant, Bob Jackson, Vern Chandler, Bill Jacobs, Darryl Alexander & Margaret Harvey nee Craven to name a few.

Dad completed his training and was transferred to the Alice. He called for Mum to come up to Alice Springs after asking her parents for their permission. Dad played cricket and footy for Federals Football team. Some 46yrs later in a hospital bed in Flinders Medical Centre he again was reunited with 2 former team mates also in for care. All 3 in the same ward side by side - a small world. On the 6th January 1962 Mum & Dad were married in the Uniting Church in Alice Springs. I was born in July.

In Feb 1964 Dad was transferred to Elliott, 6 months before electricity arrived. Judith was born in Oct 1964 at Tennant Creek. In May 1965 Dad was transferred to CIB Darwin and the family finally settled at 21 Drysdale, St Parap.

In July 1967 Ian was born in Darwin after being overdue for 14 days. Dad was attending a course interstate and Ian decided to wait until his dad returned home.

In June 1969 Neil was born in Darwin.

In December1974 Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin. We had a large above ground pool which Dad had emptied as we were due to go on holidays on Boxing Day. Dad tried to refill the above ground pool to stop it from blowing away. We taped the windows and by 3.OOpm it was getting quite dark. Mum had already packed our bags ready to go on holidays. We all stayed upstairs for the first part of the cyclone. As we were woken by the roar of the wind Dad bought us downstairs. When the eye passed over us it was deathly silent. I recall the reverse side of the cyclone struck with devastating force exploding the new front sliding windows. Glass was sprayed everywhere. Dad raced us into the kitchen and he held onto the back door for the next 5 hrs while the pressure from the cyclone tried to suck it open. Standing in water and without power we huddled there waiting for the cyclone to relent and the sun to rise. Dad you were a pillar of strength, we never once thought we would come to any harm because you were there protecting us.

The following morning it was like a bomb had gone off, the pool was in the Thompson's yard next door. There were sheets of corrugated iron wrapped around the front tree which saved us. Dad took us to the Barracks in Woods Street, we met up with other Police families.

Darwin was destroyed. Several days later we where evacuated out. Dad remained and said the most wasteful time during the rebuilding of Darwin was showing the dignitaries around. Some things never change aye Dad.

Dad also did relief work at the Nhulunbuy Police Station for 6 months playing footy on a bauxite oval was not fun. The new houses had spray on grass except for the Young's who painstakingly planted actual grass. Dad also did relief work at the Tennant Creek Police Station.

In 1979 Dad won a Churchill Fellowship to study Policing of the Indigenous natives of America, Canada and Australia. He traveled for 3 months visiting native reserves and submitted a paper on the comparisons.

In 1981, my wife Lesley, started working at the typist pool at Darwin Police Head quarters, The girls in the pool were happy with her appointment so they could give her all of Dads had written reports to type. The girls from the typing pool were too afraid to go back to dad for an interpretation on every second word. Those of you who have witnessed Dads hand writing will know what I mean.

In June 1983 Alisha was born in Darwin. Alisha, like Ian choose to wait to be born until her dad, who was in the middle of a double murder investigation had cracked the case. On the 28th June the night of the arrest of the offender, Alisha was born. It was a memorable year not only did Mum give birth but Judith gave birth to Pani and Lesley gave birth to Ryan. A Daughter and two grandchildren in the one year, a great achievement Dad.

On the 27th October 1992, Dad received the Australian Police Medal for distinguished service to the Northern Territory Police Service. He also received the National Medal & NT Police Service medal.

On the 17th January 1995, after 34 years - 12,365 days Dad retired from the Northern Territory Police Force having risen to the rank of Commander. Dad wasn't happy to go but had no choice.

Dad made a lot of friends during his years of service, these friendship have continued over 40 odd years. True friendships, that although there may have been periods of little contact, it was as if time had stood still when the relationship resumed. In Dad's last months he would make and receive calls from old friends. This renewed contact was the highlight of many of Dad's final days.

Mick (former NT Police Commissioner and Federal Police Commissioner) & his wife Kay visited Dad just a month before Dad's passing. It was such a good time for Dad as they reminisced about the old days and what they got up to. Stories involving notorious poachers and other villains of the time. Stories that can't be repeated publicly today. Dad always said Mick's a great bloke, a true friend no matter what, he'll drop everything to come if he's needed and that's what he did for you Dad.

Dad would often comment about the Retired Policeman's Association of the NT, he loved the news letters and catching up on the goss. It is a tremendous way of keeping in touch and having contact with such a large part of your history. Thanks to Graham REES and the team of the Retired Police Association NT.

Dad spent 5 months in retirement before joining the NT Government again as a Probity Manager for Racing & Gaming Commission. He performed the duties of a Special Constable - bit of a come down but he was happy to be gainfully employed.

Towards the end of his tenure, when Dad's health was starting to deteriorate and he was spending more time in hospital, we would periodically get calls from his co workers enquiring about Dad. It wasn't uncommon to get a call from Dad's office telling me to collect Dad because he was ill and shouldn't be at work. Such was his work ethics that even when he wasn't well he insisted on showing up to work. Why he would bring the TV remote into work with him will always be the subject of mirth.

In 2000 Dad under went a triple bypass at Flinders Medical Centre. This was a success but overtime highlighted other medical ailments that had gone undetected in Darwin. The old saying of if your in pain jump on a plane certainly came home to haunt Dad as he regularly had medical check ups, which failed him whilst in Darwin.

In Feb 2006 Dad again retired for a second and final time. Mum had said after 45 years she had; had enough of the heat and wanted a cool change. Amazingly Mum had the house sold/packed/removed and uplifted to Normanville within 7 weeks. Within 6 months of arriving in South Australia Dad had a pacemaker fitted which although improved his heart function exposed other serious medical ailments.

In May 2007 Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer and was given up to a 20% chance of survival. Again the family rallied behind him which re enforced his desire to fight and be with his family. Over the next 6 months Dad never complained of the number of blood transfers, the number of needles he had to endure, the number of tablets he had to swallow or the inconvenience of the stoma bag. His only complaint was that he could never get warm, he was always cold to the bone.

Dad was too ill to travel to the birth of Trey his 2nd great grandson but during his last week he was able to touch hold and comfort Trey whilst in hospital in Adelaide. It was such a pleasure to see his spirits lift when he held the little fella. Another Carlton player in the making Dad would say, Young Trey slept well contented for over 2 hours with his great grandfather on that Sunday. Even at 3 months Trey knew the kind and gentle spirit that we have all come to love in you, Dad.

Football - Dad practiced his passion for sport as a player and a spectator throughout his life. I remember fondly the games he played, his drop kick was a marvel to see. He coached Little Athletics, soccer and football over many years. He coached the Parap Primary School footy teams for a number of years during the 70s playing down at the Gardens Oval in the local schools competition under the guidance of a young Peter Atkinson.

If you didn't know - Dads a fanatic Carlton Supporter. It was in his blood. It was a family tradition which he gladly passed onto his sons and grand sons. For a bloke who played footy, followed footy all his life he had 3 sons who all ended up playing rugby union. A bit of a disappointment for a die hard Aussie rules player, supporter and critic. However, his legacy and his faith was restored when Jarred, Ryan and Cameron began playing footy. The boys remember well the afternoon kicks, the tips, the game assessments and the stats collected. The game post mortems will be missed.

For almost 10 yrs every July we would be in the car driving south for our 2 week footy road trip. Dad loved to follow the boys when they represented the Territory at the U16 & U18 levels. He always talked about the road trip with Ingrid and Joe, a laugh a minute. Those were good days; traveling in convoy to the Mecca of Australian Rules Football to support our Territory boys.

One of Dads best mates was Youngie, Peter Young. They had a love hate relationship - Dad supported Carlton - Youngie, Collingwood - arch enemies from before the Ice age. Youngie loved Collingwood and Dad hated them. Dad loved Carlton and Youngie hated them. In 1961 they started a bet of one pound every time the 2 teams played. Over time it changed to the dollar note that would be folded and stapled 40 to 50 times and sent between the two. Often the letter was unstamped so that the receiver had to pay the postage. This went on for years. I remember when Youngie was in hospital Dad rang the Collingwood Footy Club and told them about the one eyed Collingwood supporter who loved Peter Daicos. When DAICOS & Bob ROSE were in town Dad coordinated a visit to Youngie and asked the club if they would present Youngie with a Collingwood guernsey. They agreed to visit but would not provide the guernsey. Dad went and purchased the Collingwood guernsey and gave it to Daicos before he entered Youngie’s room. I can still remember the pleasure that Youngie got from their visit but especially when he led the group into singing good Old Collingwood Forever and threw the jumper in the air saying “eat your bloody heart out Ilett”.

Football in Darwin will never be the same for us - our boys were given a choice of playing for what ever club training they could ride their push bikes to. Logistics and school buddies made their choice Saints. As the boys began playing A grade we would go to footy and Dad would always be seated about 3 rows in front of Vic Ludwig. Now everyone knows Vic and his vocal appraisal of the game and performance of the umpires - over the years Dad and Vic would often provide the Umpires with a joint glowing commentary of their performances. The banter was comical but became embarrassing on Monday mornings when Lesley's boss, the CEO of AFL NT would make comment about Vic and granddad performing the double act again.

Even when he was feeing ill Granddad went to the footy - in Adelaide he loved nothing better than to watch his grandsons play - remember Dad you tried to step over seats instead of inconveniencing people by moving along the rows, anyhow you slipped and you fell knocking your head. The security guard came down to the dressing rooms and told Cam, "come quick your granddads fallen over he's bleeding every where." Now if anyone knows the Port Adelaide Footy Club just getting into the rooms before the A grade game let alone getting out is no mean feat. So Cammy goes up and there's Grandad on the ground with blood pouring out discolouring his white hair. Before Cam could say anything dad said, "if I had some blue paint in my hair I would be a Central Districts supporter."

Gambling - Dad loved the Betting Shop, the TAB, he loved the horses. He would always be in the TAB or the betting shops in the old days. If he disappeared from work he could always be found in the betting shop. Over time I have never met a bloke who would study the form guide make his selection then change his mind at the counter. I don't know how many times he would say my horse has been scratched, the jockeys fallen off or its fallen and broken its leg. Thanks Dad for keeping Judy and I in the car in the heat outside the betting shop on Parap Rd. We have no interest in betting and struggle to place a bet on Melbourne Cup day. Even when we had finished dressing Dad we went to the TAB and had a bet for him Ian was first - his selection was scratched. Neil was next and his selection was scratched but I was happy to tell Dad my horse at least ran but came last.

Religion played a big part of Dads life because it played even a bigger part of Mums life, Dad would always support Mum in her Endeavour's. Dad would play host to the large number of missionaries who frequented the house over the years. He had a question that he asked each new missionary that graced his house. There was no right or wrong answer to his question but whatever reply was provided Dad could always defeat the argument provided. Some of the missionaries spent hours researching the answers but always dad took great delight in having a great debate. Dad tolerated all kinds but due to his job and the behavior of some people he had to deal with he could not believe if there was a God, why would God would allow such behavior especially dealing with children. Dad made some great friends over the years.

Kids in trouble: All of us kids have a story about Dad. Mine was when I was just out of training I lost a portable radio (remember that one Rob) then a short time later I was involved in an incident that was serious. I remember finishing night shift and receiving a call from Dad. Son he said get out of the house CIB are coming for you. I have never spent a week so worried about being interviewed and I was supposed to be on the good side. I remember asking you Dad what to do and you said “I've been in for 27yrs and have never been on the other side of the typewriter”. In those days you received your rights in a little blue handbook that turned up in the internal mail.

Judy remembers being in a roll over and when the Connie asked her if her dad was Jack and she said yes and I'm not saying anything until my dad gets here. So Dad turns up in uniform and the first thing he said in front of everyone - "if she has done anything wrong book her". Thanks Dad.

Neil remembers having a sudden stop with a tree and ending up back in the lock up. Whilst Mum and Dad where dancing up stairs at an Officers function at PMC, Neil was down stairs with bars in front of him. Neil didn't want Dad to come down to the watch house because he knew all Dad would say was "lock him up till he sobers up."

Ian well what can we say most of the time he was the good guy the golden haired boy, he was even named after a good guy but remember the Sigma. I can drive he said - straight into a concrete pillar denting my new car. Just a small scratch I was told the bonnet had a huge imprint in it. Dad said if that was a small dent I would hate to see a big dent.

Alisha when she was working at BIG W Dad used to catch the bus and wait for her so then they could drive home together. One day she came out and there was Dad standing next to the car he never said anything but the look said it all. Those 30metres were the longest and most frightening. Dad said I hadn't been attending classes and they had received a letter from the school. After explaining it Dad was alright but boy was I scared. Dad didn't have to say a word it was the look.

Dad loved animals and always was surrounded by them - being chooks, horses, dogs or cats but always put his foot down at ferrets. Remember our little foxies Dad, they would bail the drunks coming back from the Parap Pub and you would go out and 9 times out of 10 you would end up wrestling with them on the front lawn, then the paddy wagon would have to be called.

Dad died at 4.OOpm Territory time on Sunday the 2nd December 2007 at the Flinders Public Hospital. Adelaide aged 68 years. Over the past l8months Alisha and Mum tended to your needs with all the love & care in the world. Even after you told them to ‘just leave me alone ‘, on many occasions.

Dad you held your dignity and integrity as the corner stone of your life. You can be proud of your achievements, you were not afraid to stand up for your rights and even if it meant a little bit of hardship, you would not compromise. Your stubbornness will survive. You have touched so many lives by your wit and funny sense of humour. You liked a practicable joke and could take a joke. Stand tall on your achievements Dad, a fine effort for a farmers boys from Beeac.

Dad - you fought a long battle, every time you got on top of one, another challenge would come along. Typically the strength of your character would always shine through and you would just get on with it. You did not complain, you accepted your fate and always said these are the cards that I have been dealt, this is my lot, there's not much I can do about it. You appreciated the frankness of Doctors Close and Craig and toward the end of your fight you were told just think of life as a game of cricket, your the number 11 batsman, its the last innings and you've just come in; you responded OOH AAH I'm Glen MCGRATH, you hung in there Dad and held out for as long as possible.

Your legacy will continue in your grand children; Jarred, Ryan, Cameron Chantelle, Pani, Courtney, Carli and great grand children; Jayden and Trey. We see snap shots of you in their habits and mannerisms. You have set the bar and with your encouragement and example your name will continue to grow strong. Mum, Judy & John, Ion & Tracey, Neil & Trina, Alisha & Eric, Lesley, Barbara, Jade, Merissa, and Josh all love you.

Rest in Peace mate the cows are home, the games come to an end, the final siren has sounded, your innings is over, until we met again Dad, my best mate.

Jack had a marvelous memory and it was felt that he could smell a baddy – he had the great skill of being able to frequently select the suspect long before the rest of us.

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