In Mullumbimby, St John's Catholic Church, funeral of John Foss AKA Giacomo Fosscati (1951-2012).
In Mullumbimby, St John's Catholic Church, funeral of John Foss AKA Giacomo Fosscati (1951-2012). Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Foss (Fosscati) flies away

LOVABLE rogue, larrikin and raconteur were just some of the words used to describe eccentric Irish expatriate, John Foss, who was killed on Coolamon Scenic Drive last week.

Hundreds filled the pews of St Johns Catholic Church at Mullumbimby to farewell the 60-year-old marine rescue volunteer and motorised-bicycle designer from Ocean Shores.

Though originally a Protestant from Northern Ireland, he had befriended Father Anthony Lemon since moving to the Byron Shire from Sydney about 10 years ago and told friends to call the Catholic priest "should anything happen to him".

"Father Anthony will take care of me," he had told them.

"And we will do that for you today John," Fr Anthony said yesterday, with one hand on the casket as he led the Christian rite of burial.

As another friend joked to the congregation, he had "conspired to convert with John" on their deathbeds anyway.

Tears, laughter and music set the tone for the funeral as friends opened the service in a chorus of the gospel classic, I'll Fly Away.

Some expressed surprise at the big turnout and the wide scope of friends as Mr Foss, while larger-than-life, was "never one to big note himself".

However, he would have been delighted at the fuss - "to be on the cover of the newspapers and see so many people here", a family member said.

A fellow Alcoholics Anonymous member who had shared a house with Mr Foss in Sydney, said people were grieving in meetings across the city all last week, speaking affectionately of "Irish John", as he was known throughout the fellowship.

"Even through the ravages of alcoholism and the journey to sobriety, he never lost his sense of humour or his compassion," the friend said.

"His life was extraordinary, he shared his journey with (the late) Margaret Olley, and like her he was a wilful, naughty and outrageous humanitarian."

The unit commander of Marine Rescue Brunswick, Owen Danvers, said donations to the service had been flowing in from around the world in memory of John, who he described as a well-loved larrikin and a crucial part of the rescue unit.

Mr Foss was volunteering with the unit when he helped rescue four people from a capsized vessel on Brunswick bar only a few hours before the hit-and-run tragedy.

A near-full contingent of the rescue unit provided a guard of honour as Mr Foss's casket was carried from the church, followed by his partner Nannette and family, to the strains of a single vocalist singing When Irish Eyes are Smiling.

Mr Foss was buried at Mullumbimby Cemetery.

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