A tribute to the late Dr Keith Ernest Tronc OAM

A funeral service in honour of the late Dr Keith Ernest Tronc OAM was held at St Andrew’s Anglican Church South Brisbane on Friday, 25 March 2022, commencing at 2:00 pm. Reverend Ian McGrath officiated.

To those of us who belong to St Andrew’s South Brisbane, Dr Keith Ernest Tronc OAM was simply “Keith”, a brother in Christ. Along with his wife Deneice, Keith was a well-known and much-respected member of the 8:30 am Sunday congregation at St Andrew’s. For many years, Keith participated in Sunday services as a Bible reader or prayer leader. Keith and Deneice were generous givers, the church pantry being one of the ministries they regularly supported.

Keith and Deneice Tronc at a church function, St Andrew's Church Hall, July 2005. Photo source: Judith Salecich.
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Keith and Deneice Tronc at a church function, St Andrew’s Church Hall, July 2005. Photo source: Judith Salecich.

A remarkable man, a remarkable life

Keith was a remarkable man who achieved much in his 86+ years. After beginning his working life as a schoolteacher, he became a school principal, university lecturer, associate professor of education, TAFE teacher, solicitor, barrister-at-law, legal expert on schools and the law, author, editor, radio presenter, management consultant (and much more).

Having an insatiable thirst for knowledge, Keith never stopped studying. He gained 10 University degrees. He wrote 28 books (on education, educational administration, schools and the law, justices of the peace and organisational communication) and many legal articles for professional journals. Up until his retirement in June 2021 (at 86 years of age!), Keith wrote more than 1000 expert witness reports (mainly on the topic of schools and the law) for courts throughout Australia.

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Tony and I have these two books of Keith’s in our personal library. The first, “Educating your child: A handbook for Australian parents” was published in 1983; the second, “You, your school and the law: Legal advice and guidance for teachers and administrators in today’s schools” was published in 1996.

Keith’s service to the legal profession, and to education, was recognised in January 2016 when he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Keith Ernest Tronc was born on 20 May 1935 at the Ellendene Private Hospital, in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. His father, Herbert, died of tuberculosis in October 1946 when Keith was 11 years old, so Keith’s mother Ruby was left to raise Keith on her own.

In June 1954, childhood sweethearts Keith Tronc and Deneice Parsons announced their engagement. Keith and Deneice met in their Preparatory years at school. In August 1955, the young couple were married at St Andrew’s Anglican Church South Brisbane. It was the beginning of a long and happy marriage, one that lasted 66 years!

I’m not sure exactly when Keith and Deneice started attending St Andrew’s on a regular basis, but they were there when my husband Tony and I became members of St Andrew’s in 2003. Long before that, in 1977-78, as members of a Scripture Union Beach Mission team at Elliott Heads, Tony and I ministered with their daughter Wendy and Wendy’s soon-to-be husband Peter Collins. It’s a small world!

Over the years, Tony and I got to know Keith and Deneice and Tony (in particular) made a good pastoral connection with them and followed them up regularly.

Last week, Tony and I were in Townsville, so we were unable to attend Keith’s funeral service. Instead, Tony wrote the following tribute, which he sent to Wendy and her sister Helen, for inclusion in the service, as they saw fit. It reveals a little of Keith’s last days and the faith that sustained him to the end.   

Tony’s tribute

My wife Judy and I met Keith and Deneice at St Andrew’s in 2003 when we moved from Rockhampton to Brisbane for me to take up the position of Chaplain, Brisbane State High School. We had an instant connection, as we all had an interest in schools and even more so as Keith found out that my wife and I had been Maths/Science teachers. With Deneice the connection was marine science: I had studied ciguatera and she had written about it.

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Our copy of Deneice Tronc’s book on ciguatera, published in 2001.

We have been in each other’s company for many reasons, mostly because of our involvement in the fellowship and ministry of St Andrew’s. Keith’s dedication to loving and serving his wife Deneice has been a significant example for me. He and Deneice worked together, supported one another and remained totally committed to each other to the very end. Judy and I had the pleasure of attending a couple of their celebratory functions, including a dinner to mark their 50th wedding anniversary in 2005 and a boat trip down the Brisbane River to mark their 60th wedding anniversary in 2015. Re the boat trip: What a treat that was!

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Keith and Deneice Tronc cutting the cake at their 50th wedding anniversary dinner, August 2005. Photo source: Judith Salecich.
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Keith and Deneice Tronc, their family and friends, and fellow-parishioners of St Andrew’s, board the MV James Cavill for the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary boat trip down the Brisbane River, August 2015. Photo source: Judith Salecich.
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Keith and Deneice, during the boat trip in which they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, August 2015. Photo source: Judith Salecich.
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Keith, pictured on the MV James Cavill, the boat that took he and Deneice, family and friends down the Brisbane River, to mark the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary, August 2015. Photo source: Judith Salecich.

Keith always presented as an imposing figure – tall of stature, well dressed, well spoken, sincere and well prepared for the job at hand. When he read the scriptures or led intercessory prayer in church services he read or prayed with authority and precision. At first, I was a bit apprehensive paying Keith and Deneice a pastoral call, but they soon made me very welcome and relaxed as Keith set forth to make a cup of coffee from that huge machine they had in their kitchen.

It wasn’t long before we were in deep conversation about aspects of our mutual faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Keith had many questions he needed answering. Most of them I was able to answer from the scriptures – and he saw their relevance and authority – and for others I offered an educated guess followed by: “Well, you’ll have to talk to the Lord about that”, which was sufficient to satisfy him.

This pattern continued throughout the years I visited, including more recently at The Wesley Hospital, Canossa and Casa D’amore at Coorparoo. That is, except for my last two visits to Keith and Deneice at Casa D’amore.

On the first of these visits, in late February, I met Helen in the corridor as she was wheeling Deneice back to her room. We had a brief chat about Keith. Helen reported her Dad was understandably struggling with his health, his desire to care for Deneice, frustration that he couldn’t, and the hope that they could return home.

Once in his darkened room, listening to Keith, I could feel the pain in his voice as he shared with me these matters on his heart. Eventually I spoke to him about the reality regarding his health, that his children had taken matters into their hands and were caring for Deneice. I reminded him that he had done all he could and he had to hand these responsibilities over to them. He had trusted them through these last crucial weeks and they were willing and able to fulfil his wishes. Then, I told him that what his children needed to hear from him was something like this: “Life is hard at present, there are many disappointments and, as you know, I am battling with my health. But the Lord is with me, and in His strength I am trusting that I can cope. I am not on my own.” I added: Your family at this time need to be encouraged and given direction for what they have to face in the future. I can’t remember a specific scripture I shared with Keith on that occasion, but I know there were many.

I don’t know the result of that conversation. Maybe family members can tell me sometime.

A week later I visited Keith once again. This time, Deneice was with him in his darkened room and Keith was lying on his low bed. Keith spoke softly and was quiet and reflective. After exchanging our usual pleasantries, inquiry about family and his mentioning that Rev Ian McGrath had visited recently, our conversation shifted back and forth centering on John Chapter 10, which I progressively read and explained to them.

My explanation of “I am the good shepherd”, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” was followed by me singing “The Lord is My Shepherd”.  They knew and appreciated that. Verse 9 of John 10, in which Jesus is recorded as saying “I am the gate: whoever enters through me will be saved” and verse 10 “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” led me to sing to them, “Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer”. That great hymn – in the form of a prayer – speaks in every verse about the ongoing reliance and trust that every believer can have in the finished work of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  The third verse focuses on the end of one’s life:

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee.
I will ever give to Thee.

Keith affirmed the scripture and the hymns I shared with him. I was encouraged, and it seemed to me that his quiet acceptance of his situation and his trust in the Lord was bearing fruit (as we say) in his life. After a prayer I left Keith and Deneice in the Lord’s care, knowing that the Lord is able to fulfil for Keith and for every believer all the promises in His word.

Tony Salecich, 22 March 2022

Keith Ernest Tronc died peacefully on Friday 18 March 2022. He was 86. Keith is survived by his wife Deneice, son Graham, daughters Helen and Wendy, and their spouses, and grandchildren Hamish, Phoebe, Zachary, Daniel, Claire and Jessica.

You can access a recording of Keith’s funeral service by clicking this link: https://livestreampro.com.au/dr-keith-ernest-tronc-oam/

If you’d like to find out more about Keith’s professional life and achievements, read this tribute on the Queensland Law Society website:  The passing of Dr Keith Tronc OAM

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