OBITUARY: John Southern (JS)

POPULAR local teacher and personality John Southern – better known as JS – lost his battle with cancer last week. He died at his home peacefully on Sunday, July 11, 2021.

John, who moved to the area from Melbourne in the late ‘70s, worked at Wonthaggi Technical School and quickly became a hugely popular teacher known for his wit, charisma, musical talent, ability to inspire students and original personality.

He went on to work for around 30 years at both the junior and senior campuses of Wonthaggi Secondary College, teaching generations of locals art, graphics, technical drawing, visual communication design and media studies. In this time, many students were inspired by his encouragement and example.

“John Southern (JS) was truly a character,” Wonthaggi Secondary College principal Darren Parker said.

“Being in his company made you happy! A genuine, decent person whose humour and warmth, combined with a touch of cheekiness, created outstanding relationships with students and colleagues alike.

“He had a special ability to connect with, and be admired by, all sorts of people. His passing is particularly sad, and very unfair, but we are blessed to be left with so many happy memories as a result of knowing this amazing man.”

JS, who was renowned for his love of music and for writing and playing music, formed a student teacher band back in the ‘70s, known as ‘Shock Treatment’.

He also fronted his own local bands including ‘The Hostages’ and, later, ‘Wicked Son’ who were a popular act who frequently played around the area. His outstanding guitar playing was a focus in the bands.

Foster Secondary College principal Matt McPhee, also a former member of the ‘Wicked Son’ band, said JS was one of life’s great characters and one of the funniest people he had ever met.

“We quickly became friends when we met teaching at WSC in the mid-80s. He not only convinced me to join his band ‘Wicked Son’, but was also able to trick me into playing a pub gig without a single practice with the reassurance, ‘Don’t worry Mattish, they’re all 12 bar blues – you’ll be fine’.

“Everyone who knows John has a collection of classic stories that illustrate his unique character, from his intolerance of unreliable lawn mowers to his musical prowess and charisma in the classroom.

“There would not be a single student he taught that didn’t love him and fondly remember him decades after he taught them. He gave many young local musos their start playing live, often while he was still teaching them. I will dearly miss his humour, passion for social and environmental issues, his music and above all his friendship.”

John Southern was a devoted family man who loved his wife, children, grandchildren and his home. He retired from teaching in 2004 and spent his days playing guitar, working outdoors, travelling and visiting friends and family.

He remained in close contact with many of his former colleagues and students and could often be seen around town shopping, enjoying the beautiful local surroundings and watching live music.

John Southern is survived by his wife of 43 years Joanne and three daughters Venus, Harmony and Cassady.

A memorial service will be held once COVID restrictions permit. Details will be provided.