THE last surviving WA crew member of the ill-fated HMAS Sydney has died.
Osborne Park resident Tom Fisher, who left the ship just weeks before it was sunk in 1941 with the loss of all hands, died on Saturday, June 4 aged 95.
Mr Fisher, a long-serving member of the St Vincent de Paul Society, made a promise that if he survived the war he would dedicate the rest of his life in the service of others.
Society chief executive Mark Fitzpatrick said the community had lost a loyal and selfless “gentleman” who had helped hundreds of people during his amazing life.
“Tom’s commitment to the society and the work we do cannot be overstated,” he said.
“Whether as a member, conference president, regional president, state president or society archivist and historian, Tom never stopped giving.
“Tom was a loving, giving man who had a cheeky, brilliant and extremely funny sense of humour that made us all laugh and enjoy his company. There are not many people who we have come across that touch our spirit in such a beautiful way as Tom did.
“A homeless service named in Tom’s honour is to be officially opened in August and we wish that he could have seen this project come to fruition, but we know his wife Shirley and his family will be proud to be part of this significant occasion.
“Tom was so chuffed to learn that a homeless shelter would be named in his honour and it will be a living testament to his life of kindness and generosity to the community he served so selflessly.”
He was the first to open a pantry in his home in 1980 to provide food and clothing to people in need.
“Tom Fisher was a state treasure and we will be forever grateful for all that he has done for the people of WA on behalf of the St Vincent de Paul Society,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
“His wife Shirley has been equally as generous, dedicating years of volunteer service to Vinnies and our thoughts are with her and the family at this sad time.
“The community has lost a true gentleman. We will make sure his legacy lives on through Tim Fisher House which helps rough sleeping individuals and couples.”
Mr Fisher recently told the ABC he still remembered when a telegraph operator gave him the news of the Sydney’s sinking.
“One came to me and said, ‘you shouldn’t be wearing that cap band because your ship is lost, it’s sunk’ and I wouldn’t believe him, especially because I’d writ 10 letters to the boys I left,” he said.
“I was shocked, I just couldn’t believe it and off the coast of Western Australia to be lost; there was no action there, no enemy action, we were going to the action.”
He recently got a sneak peak of a project to complete a 3D reconstruction of the shipwrecks of the Sydney and the German raider Kormoran.
“It brings back the different actions we were in and associating with the men I lived with and fought with,” he told the ABC.
“Seventy five years and I’m the only one alive that took part in that.
“Sometimes my memory misses a bit, but 75 years is a long time.”