Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One of the richest Men I have met.

This is a snippet of Dick West's story, a man one of his close friends described as the "Richest man he Know's". That 's not because of the money he has but because of the richness of his "life journey" and the love for life which he so generously shares with his family, friends and community.

Dick was born in in 1932 at North Rocks Rd, Carlingford. His grandfather, Jim West used to operate a boat called the "Growers friend" on the Lane Cove and Parramatta rivers transporting produce to the markets and returning supplies to the settlers. The "Growers friend" sailed up and down those rivers between 1878-1912, some 34 years, before being sunk in Walsh Bay after a collision with a passenger ferry. His family all worked with horses and it was here that Dick learnt his skills as a blacksmith and wheelwright.

As a child he remembers walking four miles to school everyday to attend Hornsby High School. After leaving high school he started working on sheep and cattle properties where his skills as a blacksmith and welder came very handy. This gave him the background that he would later use in his fabrication business.

In 1953 he met the love of his life Betty Blome, and in 1956 they moved to Blackheath. In 1959 Dick set himself up in business fabricating boat and car trailers he also did general welding and ornamental iron work. It was also around this time that he became interested in fabricating playground equipment. He was further encouraged in this direction by a Blue Mountains City Council engineer Mr John Yeaman who had visited America and brought back the plans of a playground "rocket".

Dick built his "Moon Rocket" first in 1961 and it became known as the "Blackheath Moon Rocket". It stood an impressive 30 feet high it was subsequently installed in Blackheath Memorial Park. He made a total of 38 moon rockets and they were erected in locations such as Elizabeth in South Australia, Mooree, Broken Hill and Taree. Over the years Dick built a variety of interesting shaped play equipment including a stage coach, submarine, old woman's shoe, elephant slippery dip, HMAS Endeavour (which earned him a trophy at the 1970 Blackheath Rhododendron festival) a space capsule, a Tiger Moth biplane, a vintage car and a dinosaur. These were installed in playgrounds across Australia. A number of these were sponsored by the Blackheath Rotary and started life in the Rhododendron festival procession and then would be installed in the Blackheath Memorial Park.

The main work which launched "R.J.West Fabrications" was with a contract with the "World Wide Church of God" who were constructing a huge building which required 123 feet clear span roof trusses. This work was followed by other steelwork framing jobs. The firm also became renowned for it's artistic wrought ironwork.

Dick also built and sold magnificent regal coaches and in November of each year he would drive one in the Rhodendron Festival.

In 1965 his business was booming and he moved his premises from the "Igloos" to a larger building in Station St. It was here, that in 1973, he started fabricating "Westcar Sidecars".  He built 2 models and they proved so popular that he built some 400 in total, over the years.

Dick and Betty bought a property down in the beautiful Megalong Valley and began to breed Clydesdales, a heritage from his pioneering family background. In the 1980's he was keen to set up a horse drawn coach service to show the tourists the sights but this was one dream that never eventuated for Dick although in later years he was to help others set their businesses up along similar lines.

Working hard all his life took it's toll on Dick's body and in 1988 he retired to his property in the Megalong Valley. From his back door he has a front row view of the Narrow Neck Penninsula and he is proud to say that he is one of only a few people who have witnessed the wonder of nature the "Phantom Falls!"

Dick is proud of his 4 children Ross,Richard, Danny and Alice as well as his gorgeous grandchildren. Dick say's he was a man who always recognised an opportunity and had faith in his ability to make a difference to his beloved Blackheath.

Dick continues to love his life in the Megalong Valley with his wife of some 56 years and even a nasty cancer has not destroyed his faith in life or his sense of humour.

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