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Those who lived, who loved and are gone

While their deaths marked statistics in a pandemic, those who died from coronavirus should be remembered for their rich and eventful lives.

Here, we continue The Age‘s series in memory and celebration of those who lived and loved and were loved.

Vincent Jakob

Though he loved Australia, the country which he called home for many decades, Vince Jakob’s heart was always in Slovenia.

When he visited the country in 2004 – the first time he had returned to his homeland in 65 years – relatives and extended family “came out of the mountains” to greet him.

“He had an aunty still alive at 101. They all treated him like he was God,” says daughter Anne.

“He was there for over a month and he just said that was the best experience he ever, ever had. He was very proud of his heritage.”

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The lush, mountainous terrain surrounding his small village of Slovenske Konjice hadn’t changed. But Vince returned to a Slovenia which was vastly different to the war-torn nation he had left as a child.

Born in 1931, Vince was a soccer-obsessed kid affectionately known as Vinko by his four siblings.

Vince was always well dressed, working in the textiles industry for 50 years.

Vince was always well dressed, working in the textiles industry for 50 years.

He was eight when war engulfed Europe. Within a few years, Germany had invaded Slovenia. In later years he would rarely talk about this time in his life, except to say how difficult it was for him and his family.

Looking for better opportunities and a future free from conflict for their children, the family sailed to Australia in the 1940s.

They lived, like many migrants of their generation, at Bonegilla migrant camp in Albury before Vince, his father and brother went to work on the Snowy Mountain Scheme.

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In 1950, aged 19, Vince moved to Melbourne, taking up a job at a Frankston pub before working at the Flinders Naval Depot at Crib Point.

Here, a workmate introduced Vince to his sister, Anna Hazler.

They were engaged within six months and wed on October 2, 1954, at Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Sunshine.

It was a simple ceremony, after which they went back to Vince’s parents house, where the family danced and sung to the piano accordion.

The couple move to St Albans, where Anna gave birth to their first child, Rosie, second daughter Anne and son Peter.

The family would remain in St Albans for 40 years. Sundays were spent with extended family, dancing and singing with the food and drink overflowing.

“He always had a drink in his hand, and always liked Slovenian music,” says Anne. Her father was a larrikin, cheeky and joking, but also battled with memories of a childhood tinged by wartime conflict.

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Anna and Vince were married at a church in Sunshine on October 2, 1954.

Anna and Vince were married at a church in Sunshine on October 2, 1954.

“The Europeans were hard people, you know, not a lot of affection, not a lot of love, they just didn’t know how to give it because they never got it,” she says.

“But we brought that out of him. We really did and he was a very loving man towards the end, very affectionate.

“Dad was a gentlemen. He had a lot of respect for people. He was a charmer and very opinionated – he would tell it how it is. You knew if he didn’t like you.”

Vince had lifelong passion for soccer, helping to establish the St Albans soccer club with his brother Pepe in the 1950s.

He tended to his garden where he grew plum, olive and lemon trees, and could often be found outside tinkering in his shed. He loved his eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Anna and Vince had three children. They were married for 63 years.

Anna and Vince had three children. They were married for 63 years.

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He retired in 2004, after spending 50 years in the textiles industry.

“Very rarely you saw him out of a suit,” says Anne. “Even sitting at home in the day, he always had a suit on. When you tried to get him in tracksuits, he would say, ‘I’m not wearing that’. ”

Towards the end of his life, Vince developed dementia.

After a bout of pneumonia in 2017, the family decided to put Vince into respite for a month to give Anna a short break.

“We thought that was going to be a good thing for both of them. But Dad was in respite for 10 days and my mum passed away,” says Anne.

“She had a massive brain stem hemorrhage and died. It broke our hearts because then we had to leave Dad there because there was no-one to look after him. It was a terrible time.”

Vince spent his last few years at Glendale Aged Care in Werribee.

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It was here, in July, that he tested positive for coronavirus.

“He always said he would live till he was 100. And he was healthy right up until that hit him.”

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Vince was taken to hospital, where his children were told there was nothing that could be done.

He died surrounded by his favourite photos, blankets and music, but without his family.

“He was a healthy man,” says Anne. “He had all the normal issues of old age, but he never should have gone that way. He should be still with us.”

Till the end, Vince was dreaming of the mountains and hills of his beloved Slovenia.

He died on July 28, reunited with his Anna, “where he longed to be”.

The Age would welcome submissions from families or friends who would like to pay tribute to those taken by the pandemic for inclusion within this series.

Please contact simone.koob@theage.com.au and twright@theage.com.au.

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