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BAIRD, Jack Leeson (1911-2012)

Jack Baird

Jack Baird

BAIRD, Jack Leeson (1911-2012)

'John' Leeson Baird, one of College’s oldest ‘Old Collegians’ died on 21 May 2012 at age 101 years 4 months. Officially named Jack he was known as ‘John’ to family and school friends and was particularly proud of his medal as dux of the Lower IV Class at College. He often recounted a story that his father had been disappointed that he hadn’t excelled in any of the School sports and asked what would be required for John to achieve dux of his class. The promise of a new bicycle prompted a year of hard work and the desired result for his father.

‘John’, the son of Dr Arthur Leeson Baird (1877-1959) and his wife, Ella Rose Gilbert was born on 15 January, 1911 at 'Strathcona' Geelong and was educated at Geelong College from 1921 to 1926. For the next three years from 1927 to 1930 'Jack' trained in wool classing and sorting. At age 22 he joined G J Coles & Coy Ltd Store No 14, Geelong in May 1933. On 11 November 1950 he married Eleanor Mary Birchall at Kew, Melbourne. He first worked for the G J Coles Company when it was a general retailer and after some 38 years with the company was Controller - Buildings and Equipment and directly responsible for supermarket construction. His career had included management of Coles Stores in Launceston (1946); Albany (1946); Geraldton (1947) Warrnambool (1947); Perth 1954; and Adelaide, 1956 before his move to Head Office in 1958 and Controller - Buildings and Equipment in 1962. In 1962, a delegation headed by Jack visited and inspected the supermarket boom in San Francisco and Chicago. Returning to Australia, Jack was appointed Associate Director and was soon responsible for the construction of ninety Coles ('S E Dickens') Supermarkets across Australia, a project not equaled since. He retired in 1971.

During World War II he served from 25 July, 1940 to 13 March, 1946 in Darwin firstly, with the 2/14th Field Regiment, 8th Division, AIF and then the Australian Movement Control Group. He was a Lieutenant at the time of his discharge.

At College, ‘John’ was a keen tennis player narrowly losing in the 1925 Junior School Tennis Championship to the eventual champion, Ronald Greeves, brother of ‘Carji’ Greeves’. He was the Dux of the Lower IV Class in 1921 and placed third in Lower V A in 1925. He was also a member of Bellerophon House at Preparatory School.

‘John’ was the third generation of the Baird Family to be educated at College. His father, a dental surgeon, was educated at the College from 1892 to 1895 and played in both the Cricket and Football Teams from 1893 to 1895. He was also the College Dux in 1895. ‘John’s grandfather, Rev Charles Joseph Baird (1866-1900) was at the College in 1881 to 1882 and played for both the Cricket and Football Teams in 1882. ‘John’s brother, Arthur Gilbert ('Terry') Baird (1906-1983), a former bank manager of the National Australia Bank’s Collins St Eastern Branch, was also a College student, attending from 1916 to 1923. 'John’s' son, David Baird, was a boarder at College from 1964 to 1970.

Jack Baird

Jack Baird

‘John’ was also the last surviving student of Miss A C Harris’s Newtown Ladies School, one of the forerunners of Morongo. According to the published History of the Morongo College the Presbyterian Ladies College, which was the forerunner to Morongo, opened in 1920 at the property known as ‘Roslyn’ at the corner of Elizabeth St and La Trobe Terrace. In doing so, it ‘absorbed Miss Harris’s Newtown Ladies School. Morongo opened in 1927.

‘John’ is survived by his wife of over 60 years, Eleanor Mary nee Birchall who he married at Kew in November, 1950. ‘John’ was interviewed for the June 2011 issue of Ad Astra magazine.

Sources: Eulogy by David Baird 29 May 2012. OGC 1922.
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