Daylesford has lost a remarkable and well-known character with the death of John Bohn.
John Bohn born on July 16, 1936 and died peacefully at St John of God Hospital in Ballarat on September 8.
For many years, John was the Daylesford pharmacist and later a practicing hypnotherapist but his many and varied roles in the community included the swimming club, Rotary, U3A, the Friends of Cornish Hill and the Daylesford Regional Visitor Information Centre.
John was the second child and only son of Winnifred and Roy Bohn who farmed in Narioka, an area near Nathalia. He went to the local school which had only 8 students and there, he formed a friendship with Morris Holland which he maintained throughout his life. He started high school in Nathalia but was awarded a scholarship to Melbourne High School starting in year 11. That meant a move from a town of 1000 people to the big inner city life of Melbourne where he boarded. John was an accomplished student and achieved admission into pharmacy college on completion of his matriculation.
After completing his pharmacy degree, John did an internship in Nathalia with the local pharmacist, Jim Williams, but was drawn back to Melbourne where he worked at a pharmacy in Reservoir. It was during that time that he attended a dance at the Heidelberg Townhall (now the Ivanhoe Centre) and met Noelle Graham. After a short courtship they married and moved to Ballarat where John was the pharmacist at the Henry Francis Pharmacy located in the Ballarat Myer store. It was not long after they welcomed their first daughter, Jenny. Two years later they welcomed a second daughter, Merril, and six years later, Peter.
In 1972, John purchased the Daylesford Amcal pharmacy and relocated his family there.
When he bought the pharmacy, John also inherited the mess behind the pharmacy where the previous pharmacist discarded everything he no longer wanted. According to family members, cleaning this up took much of John’s time, and involved the rest of the family in working bees. Some of the treasures they uncovered are still on display in the Apothecary at Sovereign Hill and the Port of Echuca settlement. John was an invaluable resource to Daylesford Museum staff when they were cataloguing an extensive collection historic items used at pharmacies. He was particularly proud of his contribution to this work.
John was an astute and respected businessman and the pharmacy flourished. In 1978, the Amcal pharmacy amalgamated with a second Daylesford pharmacy and John entered into partnership with the late Colin and Beth Lelean. As he approached his middle age, John became increasingly interested in alternative therapies and after dabbling in a few things, he developed a passion for hypnotherapy. He left pharmacy in 1994 to establish himself as a hypnotherapist and continued to practice hypnotherapy until his early 80s when ill health interfered.
Noelle and John went their separate ways in 1995. Somewhat to the surprise of his family, John developed domestic skills and forged a life for himself as a single man.
John was incredibly involved in the local community and was very generous with his time – volunteering and assisting organisations with their operations and activities. For some years in the 1970s, he ran the local swimming club and young swimmers of the time remember John driving them back and forth to Ballarat for training and competition. He was very active in the Scouts, Apex, Rostrum, Lions and later, the Garden club.
He worked tirelessly work for the Hypnosis group and singlehandedly ran their education program, booking rooms at the Carlton Library and ensuring various speakers to interest the group.
Friends of Cornish Hill remember his work in the restoration of the park, a long-term labour of love that changed a previously overgrown and neglected area to a lovely picnic spot with abundant local history.
John was a regular volunteer at the Daylesford Regional Visitor Information Centre. He told tourists that his knowledge of the town far surpassed that of Google and he encouraged visitors to put their phones away and be guided by his directions and knowledge.
He was a foundation member of the local U3A in 2000 and many members recall with affection John’s “luncheons” at local venues which regularly attracted anywhere from 10 to 20 U3A members. He was passionate about these lunches and the social connection they provided for those members who attended.
John was well know for his amazing memory. He seemed never to forget a name or a face. This was both a blessing and a curse because there were times when he would encounter someone and recall an incredible amount of information about them but receive only a blank stare in reply. He retained his interest in world affairs and history and could recount stories from his past as if they happened yesterday.
Many people recall that John was ever cheerful and always ready to engage in a ‘chat’. And even though some tried to take advantage of him, in his words he “never refused the hand of friendship”.
John would not want the community to be saddened by his death. In talking about grief, he wrote “Commiseration is a feeling that can keep people in a hopeless, negative state of mind… Sympathy or feeling sorry for a person’s [grief] tends to lower the mood and is not productive. We want to cultivate the feeling of compassion… Compassion, and understanding the feelings this state of mind generates, is heart-warming and hopeful rather than sad; inspiring rather than discouraging.”
John loved everything Daylesford and and was committed to the town from the day he bought into it. He has inspired us. He was certainly a character and Daylesford will miss him.