The Shalom College community is celebrating the life of Brother Gordon Rochford this week after the news of his recent passing has left students and staff, past and present, reflecting on the wonderful memories of “the man with camera in hand”.
To the thousands of people who have passed through the College since 1988, Brother Rochford was a familiar and friendly face around the grounds.
As a 14-year-old he began his journey as a Christian Brother on January 29, 1947 and his empathy and love for others quickly spread to all that he met in his career as a teacher.
Brother Rochford was principal of two schools and worked in numerous others before he made his way to Shalom College.
In 2017 Brother Rocky, as he was affectionately known by students, celebrated his 70th Jubilee as a Christian Brother at a Mass at the Holy Rosary Church and in 2018, he retired after 30 years at Shalom.
Every day for three decades he never failed to greet students, staff and parents with “Shalom” and acknowledged the birthdays of everyone in the school.
He was often spotted running around the grounds with camera in hand, documenting all of the wonderful moments experienced at the school.
Principal Dan McMahon said Brother Rochford lived out, in extraordinarily tangible ways, the spirit of the college and had been an outstanding example of Christian ministry.
“One of Brother’s many qualities was that he could find God in others,” Mr McMahon said.
“Many a student or staff member can tell a story of how Brother saw something in them when others did not or would not.
“He has now passed on to the God he so loved, please keep him in your prayers as we thank God for the wonderful gift he was to this community.”
Brother Rochford's kindness impacted many at Shalom
After news of his passing was announced this week, many who Brother Rochford had met throughout the years have recalled their fond memories of the much-loved man.
One of those people, Andrea McLaren, said she was especially touched by the kindness that Brother had shown to all five of her children when they attended Shalom.
“Brother Rocky was an incredible man and meant a lot to us,” she said.
“He had such an impact upon my five children and our family during our years at Shalom.
“He always had a friendly word for parents as well as students and it still blows me away how he remembered everyone, but still had that gift of making you feel special.”
Andrea said Brother Rochford had a way of recognising the special gifts of various students and always encouraged them to shine bright.
“Brother Rocky encouraged all of my children in their various gifts; Rachael, Benjamin, Sophie, Jacob and Alexander,” she said.
“Whether it was singing, dancing, art, sport, musical instrument playing and academic pursuits – he did this for all the students.
“He loved the song Shalom Chaverim deeply also and I don't think any of us will be able to sing it now without a crack in our voices without thinking of Brother Rocky.”
Andrea said most would remember Brother Rochford with his trusty camera, recording the special moments and daily life at Shalom College.
“He recorded all the school's day to day events, some as mundane as lunch times but also big events like dance performances, sports days, Rock Eisteddfods, drama, work experiences and more,” she said.
“This would be culminated in a photo slide show presentation before they graduated in Grade 12 on a special evening where he would present the ‘Rochford Files'.
“It would be a humorous night where he would provide the commentary to various slides.
“As parents we were amazed how the photos would go across the whole continuum of Grade 8 to 12 and see how the children would have grown through that time.”
Current Shalom College students have also paid tribute to Brother Rochford and how his positive attitude impacted their lives.
“Brother Rochford found it tough as he grew older to get around to everyone for their birthday, but he made sure no one ever missed out. He reminds me that even when times get tough, you must keep going and he embodied the true Shalom Spirit,” college captain Oliver Collins said.
“Brother use to ride his bike to school every day for decades. When he could no longer ride, he caught the bus to and from school each day with us students. I always sat by his side and he would share his wisdom. I now feel privileged to have had this opportunity,” house captain Georgie Tuzes said.
Brother Rochford passed away peacefully on the morning of Monday, 23 August.
His funeral will be held in Bundaberg at a later date.
Shalom Chaverim, Brother.