DAYS before Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement, the Head of the Catholic Church in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, was in Ulladulla to farewell the father of a long-time friend and colleague - former Cooma businessman John Percy.
The Archbishop of Sydney presided over the Mass of Rest and Resurrection for Ulladulla resident John Percy at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Green Street on February 4, before heading to the Vatican last week where he will vote for a new pope.
Cardinal Pell said the final commendation and was among a contingent of 37 priests from the Sydney and Canberra/Goulburn Diocese, as well as nuns from around the region, to farewell Mr Percy, the father of Priest Tony Percy, the Rector of the Good Shepherd Seminary in Homebush.
Mr Percy lost his battle with cancer on January 30, aged 82 years.
A man of prayer, who never missed a Sunday mass in his life, Mr Percy was also a shrewd businessman, a hard worker and generous, with a wonderful sense of humour. He prayed every day and was devoted to God, but Mr Percy also delighted in playing practical jokes on his 15 grandchildren, body surfing at the beach, eating prawns by the sea, following the horse races and a good party.
His daughter Carrie said her father was a "self-made man" who "worked hard, prayed hard and played hard".
Chief celebrant Father Percy said one of his greatest memories as a child was seeing his father on his knees in prayer - an act that played a significant role in the development of his own faith.
Mr Percy grew up in Sydney where he studied law and worked for the Australian Arbitration Commission before purchasing his own newsagency business.
He married Joan in 1957 and the couple moved to Cooma in 1966 where they bought the local newsagency which they ran for 33 years and which is now owned by their son Leo.
A father of six, Mr Percy became a business leader in the town and served two terms on Cooma Monaro Council after being elected on the platform that he was "a virile young businessman with a hungry wife and six kids to feed".
The couple purchased a holiday house in Ulladulla in 1977 and took time out of their busy lives to visit regularly before retiring to the district in 1998.
They immediately became involved with the Ulladulla Catholic Church, with Mr Percy on the parish finance committee and his wife teaching youngsters at Catechist.
Both had a strong relationship with Father David O'Brien and Father Francis Tran and were members of the church Parker Family Group, a support and friendship network, which recently held a mock greyhound race fun day at their home.
Mr Percy was a member of the Mollymook Golf Club and enjoyed a round or two at the Beachside course and was also a member of the Mollymook Beach Combined Probus Club.
Members of both organisations, along with hundreds of local Catholics, family and friends attended the funeral to farewell a faithful, loving man who, before his death, told his family that he was at peace with God.
Mrs Percy said she was delighted to see such an impressive turn-out of Catholic Church leaders to farewell her husband and added that local parishioners were given a chance to meet Cardinal Pell following the service.
"It was just wonderful that Cardinal Pell, George, came," she said.