Well-known and well-loved Gunnedah man Bill Syphers has died at 93 years of age.
The retired boot maker passed away in his sleep on February 12, 2022.
Bill was named Norman Kingsford Syphers when he was born on June 7, 1928 in Annandale, Sydney to Norman and Hilda.
He had two siblings, Betty and Marie. Marie died of diphtheria at 14 months, which deeply affected his mother who then went into a home.
At the age of four, Bill was put into a boys' orphanage in Baulkham Hills and three-year-old Betty was put into a girls' orphanage in Parramatta. Bill then moved to Westmead Boys Home until he was a young teenager when he left to pursue work.
He was taken on as an apprentice by a bootmaker in Kings Cross at the age of 14 and spent three years learning the trade. After that he went to the bush and started working on farms doing jobs like wheat carting and building hay stacks. He worked at Woolbrook in winter with only wheat bags to keep him warm.
"I went all over the place," Bill said.
"I just had a bug for different towns."
He joined the Australian Army when he was 17 (he had no birth certificate) and after training at Greta for three months, he sailed to Japan in 1946 for a few years.
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After returning to Australia, he returned to farm work and eventually found himself in Gunnedah where he met Patricia Pawley.
Bill worked as a linesman for the PostMaster General and started doing small bootmaking and upholstery jobs for locals.
Bill and Patricia were married on July 30, 1949 in Gunnedah and had six children Jenny Brasen, Ray, Lorraine (McAndrew), Allan, Dianne (Ferguson) and David.
Around this time, Bill took up the craft he learned as a teenager full-time and opened his first shop in Barber Street in the 1950s.
He continued boot-making and saddlery before moving to another premises in Chandos Street where he stayed for 25 years before relocating Bill Syphers Footwear and Saddlery to Conadilly Street.
Patricia died on December 4, 1994 and in 2016, Bill retired from the shop because of illness.
The shop is being managed by his son David and Bill still visited a few times a week to catch up with locals before he moved into Mackellar nursing home at 91.
David says the family will "keep the business going".
Bill is survived by five of his children, and 23 grandchildren and 55 great grandchildren.
The funeral will be held on Monday, February 21 at 2pm at St Joseph's Catholic Church in Gunnedah.
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