Wally Lewis rethought his epitaph.
Wally Lewis rethought his epitaph.

King Wally: How I want to be remembered

RUGBY league legend Wally Lewis has revealed how he wants to be remembered - and it's not as a footy player.

The special bond he shares with his children, including daughter Jamie-Lee, a Souths Logan Magpies rugby league player, has defined his life since footy.

The bonds have been highlighted in a moving campaign for some of Queensland's leading funeral homes, in which "The King" urges people to think about how they want to be remembered after they die.

In the "Live in the moment: Live on in the memory" campaign, Lewis reveals that ahead of his rugby league achievements, he wants to be remembered as a proud dad who never missed one of daughter Jamie-Lee's rugby league games for the Magpies.

Jamie-Lee, whose diagnosis with a hearing impairment almost 25 years ago turned the family's world upside down, was a toddler when she had a cochlear implant at the age of four.

She has played top-level water polo and was the first deaf person to be selected to represent Australia in a hearing sport when she was chosen in the Australian junior women's water polo team.

These days, Jamie-Lee is following in her famous father's rugby league footsteps and while she is forging her own path, Lewis says he can often see himself in the way she plays the game.

"We had some tough times with Jamie-Lee growing up and being profoundly deaf, so to have my relationship with her highlighted in the George Hartnett Metropolitan Funerals project makes me feel very proud," he said.

"I love watching her play and see a lot of myself in her.

"She understands the game wonderfully and enjoys playing as much as I did."

Lewis said he was a "fairly calm" spectator when Jamie-Lee was playing.

"I'm happy to sit there and try to work out what she's planning on doing - to see how she's reading the game.

"I'm really very cool, calm and collected, whereas my wife Jackie is probably more worried about her getting hurt."

 

Wally Lewis with wife Jacqueline and daughter Jamie-Lee Lewis. The King said he wants to be remembered as a good husband and dad before being a league legend. Pic Jamie Hanson
Wally Lewis with wife Jacqueline and daughter Jamie-Lee Lewis. The King said he wants to be remembered as a good husband and dad before being a league legend. Pic Jamie Hanson

 

Lewis said the births of Jamie-Lee and her brothers, Mitchell and Lincoln, were his proudest memories, ahead of even his 31 State of Origin appearances and the 33 times he wore the Australian jersey.

"I'll be honest, I cried my eyes out every time," he said. "And to then become a grandfather, well, that's really what's important to me now.

"I remember when my wife Jackie and I found out that Jamie-Lee was hearing-impaired, we felt lost and couldn't find the support we needed to understand the condition.

"It was Jamie-Lee's diagnosis that helped me find my passion for charity work.

"That was the start of my involvement with hearing impairment charity, Hear and Say Foundation for Deaf Children, that continues to this day."

Lewis said featuring in the "Live in the moment: Live on in the memory" campaign gave him an opportunity to think about what was really important to him after recently turning 60.

"I think most sportspeople, when they are going through the highs of their career, see themselves as being invincible, and I was no different," he said.

"I was 10 foot tall and bulletproof but you get to a point in your life where you really have to stop and consider what's important and how you want to be remembered.

"Since my playing days finished, we've had the births of the three kids, the arrival of grandkids and I had a serious health scare before I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2006, which made me seriously think about my own mortality.

"When I was approached to lead the 'Live in the moment: Live on in the memory' campaign, I had to sit down and consider how I wanted to be remembered and I realised I already knew most of the answers.

"I know that I want to be remembered for much more than my football career. First and foremost I'd like to be remembered as a good husband, a good father and a good grandad.

"My own dad was a huge part of my life and I hope I've lived up to that example."

George Hartnett Metropolitan Funerals is part of the InvoCare Group and state manager Mandy Pengilly said it was an honour to have someone of Lewis's reputation involved in the new campaign.

Originally published as King Wally: How I want to be remembered