Jack Kane (Kopeloff)
Born: 16 February 1924
Died: 16 June 2017
Pakenham man and the recipient of France’s highest accolade, the French Legion of Honour, Jack Kane has died, aged 93.
The Englishman and World War II veteran was born on 16 February 1924 in London to Morris and Frances.
He had two much older sisters, Bessie – by 11 years – and Freda – by 16 years.
As a child, he was a quick learner and soon joined the accelerated learning environment with other like-minded students.
The scholar was intelligent beyond his years, but when told he would be a prefect in sixth form, Jack asked to be excused as gate duty and detention supervision did not appeal to him.
Jack had a dream of attending university, but gave in to his parents’ constant pressures to find a job.
They didn’t believe in higher education, so at 18, he enlisted into the British Armed Forces.
He married Josephine, who he met at a youth club, in April 1944, and in June was sent to war.
It was 6 June 1944 when Jack landed in Normandy, aged 20, as a member of a specialised heavy weapons platoon in the Middlesex Regiment.
Wounded in July, he was sent back to Britain for treatment and sent back into the fray.
He served in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany before returning home in 1945, with some battle scars.
He then enrolled in an electrical course in a bid to avoid being posted to the Pacific.
About this time, he changed his name from Kopeloff to Kane to eliminate possible discrimination for the family a few months before his daughter Diane was born in December 1946.
Once he wrapped up his studies, he was sent to Egypt as an instructor for another year before being discharged in October 1947 to care for Jose, who was suffering from stress after living with his mother for three years.
Civilian life meant a move to Frinton in Essex and a job as an electrician at a power station.
His second child Richard was born in January 1949 at home, but tragically died in April 1950 after contracting a virulent bowel infection.
It was the discovery of nuclear power plants that saw Jack take charge of his post-war career and eventual immigration to Australia in January 1958, with Jose, Diane and his two other children Allister (born 1952) and Nicholas (born 1956).
They arrived in Australia to a heatwave of 100 degrees wearing their best clothes.
Within two days of his arrival, Jack had gained employment as a boiler house engineer with the promise that he would be given the job of operations engineer at the Spencer Street Power Station.
This upset his fellow Australian workers who didn’t want a Pommy taking a position that should have gone to one of their own, even though no-one had the experience to satisfy the requirements of the job.
Jack couldn’t work under those conditions and promptly resigned.
His next role was that as a contract engineer commissioning the first four boilers on the ‘D’ station at Yallourn.
This position saw him working in places from Bendigo to Tasmania.
Being away from home so much wasn’t fair on Jose and the kids, so he took a job at Dunlop Rubber as its power engineer in south Melbourne in 1959 but, as it turned out, the job required travelling from Bairnsdale to Abbotsford to Bundoora.
Jack built his little slice of paradise in North Clayton in 1961.
There he joined the parent teacher organisation of his children’s school and found himself elected president.
This was the start of his association with many community groups over the years including, later on, U3A.
Jack studied business management which led him to be offered various managerial roles in a number of large Australian and international companies.
He retired aged 59 in 1982 after receiving a forced voluntary redundancy and became “a grey nomad” for a short period of time before being called upon to fill part-time and short-term employment roles.
This was also the year he became an Australian citizen.
Finally at 60 he retired – almost.
He agreed to take on small consulting jobs, and joined numerous community groups including Probus.
Sadly, he lost Jose after an 18-year battle with cancer in 1993.
To take his mind off his devastating loss, Jack set up the Woodworkers of the Southern Peninsula Association which were used to make toys that were given away. He lobbied to have new premises built.
It was at a Scottish country dancing class that he met Irena, a widow 15 years younger than him, who was to be his companion for more than 20 years.
Jack moved to Lakeside in 2012, and once again became involved with his local community joining the Berwick Woodworkers club, Cardinia U3A and Cardinia Men’s Shed and was involved in breeding tropical fish.
It was on 7 July 2015 – 70 years after the war ended – that Jack was recognised for his efforts in World Word II.
The veteran was awarded the decoration of the rank of chevalier of the French Legion of Honour for outstanding service in the liberation of France.
This was presented by the French ambassador at a ceremony at the Melbourne shrine, and was known as Jack’s proudest moment during a long, full life.
Jack would pass away two years later on 16 June 2017.

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