Sir Nicholas Shehadie farewelled in state funeral

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

"He was destined to be a giant of a man."

With those words, Sir Nicholas Shehadie's son, Michael, remembered a man who left a mark on so many areas of Australian life, in rugby, politics and community service, especially. 

When he was first born, Michael recalled, his mother's doctor joked she had 'given birth to a baby elephant', with Sir Nicholas weighing in at 6.4 kgs.

"(In elephants), the strongest personality is that of the leader," he said.

"Unlike other animals, where leadership is won by dominance and aggression, elephants respect intellect and problem solving and they have an ability to achieve consensus.

"So it seems the doctor's comments were prophetic."

First picking up rugby at Randwick when he was 15, it didn't take Sir Nicholas long to fall in love with the game, upon which he left an indelible mark, Michael said

"He discovered he was reasonably fast, had good hands and loved training...and it wasn't long before he was selected for first grade."

A remarkable rugby player, the 'ultimate politician', a loving husband, brother, father and grandfather, Shehadie passed away on February 11

He was surrounded by family and it was his family that felt his love as much as anyone, with he and wife Dame Marie Bashir, an iconic Sydneysider in her own right, to celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary later this week.

It was a simple moment of immense generosity that sealed Bashir's love for Nick, in their early days of dating.

"She was caring for a desperately ill child who had recently been abandoned by family. there were no visitors nor toys for him," MIchael said.

"Our mother was deeply distressed and told Nick the story.

"The next day Mum walked into the ward to find the child's cot filled with toys. She assumed the family had come back but instead was informed that a 'good-looking man, a rugby type, had visited the child and brought the toys'.

"Straight away, Mum knew who it was. it was this simple gesture, this act of kindness and compassion that won my mother's heart."

Nick Shehadie passed away on Sunday. Photo: SuppliedHis grandson, also named Nick, recalled a grandfather who always had time for his offspring and his siblings, taking them to school and listening to all their various stories, and giving his opinion on anything they retold.

"He was always ready to help solve our problems and us grand kids loved it," he said.

"He had three standard responses: 'Why would you do that?', 'That's madness, or 'Fair dinkum', followed by a roll of the eyes and a shake of the head."

Though his legacies will vary across his spectrum of life, the common thread through four addresses was that Shehadie found time for everyone.

He stumbled into state politics, unable to refuse a request from the Premier to run, but garnered respect from political allies and foes alike.

Dignitaries from politics, rugby and the Sydney community represented the kaleidoscope of a life that Shehadie lived, among hundreds who gathered in Sydney to farewell the Wallabies legend.

His influence in the inception of the Rugby World Cup was reflected upon among his many achievements, sporting and otherwise, a landmark move that changed the rugby landscape across the world.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, former Prime Minister John Howard and former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally were among those in attendance at St James's Church on Wednesday morning..

Michael left it to Winston Churchill to sum up Shehadie's influence on those he spent time with and it was fitting for each of the tapestry of stories told in the service.

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give," he said.

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