Three 'Fs' paramount in Joe's life

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Farmer, footballer and war hero Joe Pearce died last month aged 95.

More than 300 people packed the Moulyinning Hall to attend his funeral where his extraordinary life was remembered.

One of 10 children, Joe, born on February 28, 1917, grew up on his parents' farm in Moulyinning. He left school aged 14 to farm full time.

A talented footballer, Joe left life on the land in 1939 to play league football for Swan Districts at aged 22.

His football career was interrupted by military service in October 1940, and in 1941 he was sent to South East Asia.

After surviving weeks of heavy shelling by the Japanese, Joe was taken prisoner in February 1942 and toiled on the infamous Thailand to Burma Railway.

He endured four years of hellish events as a prisoner of war when his weight fell from 75kg to just 40kg. Despite this, he went on to win best and fairest for Swan Districts in 1949 and 1950.

Lifetime friend and football companion Graham Gooding said Joe was remembered not only as an excellent footballer and a war hero but a true gentleman.

"He is famous for what he did on the football field and during the war but Joe was an absolute genuine person, a true gentleman, tough as anything and he always succeeded in whatever he was doing," he said.

"I don't think there were too many people like him."

Soon after returning from Thailand after the war, Joe met his wife-to-be, Gwyneth Dow. The pair married just three months later and remained soul mates until Gwyneth's death in 2001.

The couple had two children, Tracy and Tom, and Joe raised Gwyneth's daughter Alison as his own.

At Joe's funeral, Tom said there were three 'Fs' in Joe's life - farming, family and football.

Joe played 91 WAFL games for Swan Districts and was honoured with a life membership in 1990, when the club started the Joe Pearce Courage Award.

Swan Districts also honoured Joe by coining each Anzac Day match the Joe Pearce Match.

After retiring from Swan Districts in 1951, Joe went on to play and coach for Moulyinning Football Club.

During his 20 years of coaching Moulyinning, the club won 12 premierships, nine consecutively.

Past Moulyinning Football Club president Bob Bray said Joe left a lasting imprint on the club and community.

"The success of the Moulyinning Football Club can be accredited to Joe's leadership, his ability to teach skills, fitness, team loyalty and mostly, to love the game," he said.

"Joe had the ability to not only bring out the best in us but to improve whatever talent we had.

"Through his example, he imparted in us the attitude to live life properly, to behave in the correct manner and to look after our mates."

Joe revisited Thailand for the first time with some of his war friends and their families in 1992. He saw the trip as a healing process and it was when his respect and admiration for the Thai people grew.

Joe settled down in Moulyinning and lived out the past two years of his life in Dumbleyung hospital.

He also leaves eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

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