A man of wit and humour

Tom and Shirley Fisher/Supplied

Tom Fisher was best known as the last surviving West Australian to have served on the ill-fated HMAS Sydney and as one of the St Vincent de Paul Society's longest serving volunteers, writes Rachel Curry at The Record.

Osborne Park parishioner Tom Fisher passed away on 4 June at the age of 95, leaving behind his wife Shirley, five of their children, 11 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

However, there is much more to this loving and generous man, whose wits were only matched by his sense of humour.

Thomas Patrick Fisher was born 30 April, 1921, in Geraldton, one of seven children of Catherine and Arthur Fisher.

He spent his first few years of schooling at Isseka Primary School, which had just 15 students, before his family moved to Perth when he was seven.

After completing his education, Tom started an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic.

However, his life was turned upside down at age 18 when Australia entered World War II.

Tom was a member of the Royal Australian Navy Reserve and was automatically called upon to serve his country.

Following his initial training, he served on the HMAS Sydney for 18 months, from 1940 to 1941, during which time the ship became a household name due to her exploits in the Mediterranean.

For Tom, it was a blunt introduction to the realities of war, as he watched enemy seamen die before his eyes.

"We didn't have counsellors or 'do-gooders' rushing up to hold our hands in those days and I just had to absorb it," he wrote in his autobiography, Tom's Story.

Tom was transferred from the HMAS Sydney in late October 1941, missing by a matter of weeks her battle with the German raider HSK Kormoran, which left both ships at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

He went on to serve on the HMAS Hobart for almost two years, surviving a Japanese torpedo attack west of the Solomon Islands in 1943 which killed 13 of his mates.

After the war, Tom had difficulty readjusting to civilian life, but his fortunes improved remarkably when he met Shirley in 1947.

The pair married in 1951, by which time Tom had finished his apprenticeship and started working as a patrolman for the RAC.

He stayed with the company for 43 years and was eventually promoted to Manager of the Claims Department.

Father of a growing brood, he also went to night school to gain his high school leaving certificate and study business management.

Tom didn't slow down in his later years, writing his autobiography and becoming an archivist for the Osborne Park RSL, St Vincent de Paul Society, Osborne Park Parish, and Archdiocese of Perth.

He was a man of strong faith and attended Mass every morning, even as his health declined.

OBITUARY: Thomas Patrick Fisher OAM (The Record)

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