Cowra mourns the loss of popular teacher

The Cowra community has come together to farewell beloved Cowra High School teacher and Cowra Rugby Club life member Mr Paul “Poppa Bear” Smith. 

Hundreds, including family, friends, colleagues, Cowra High students and members of the Cowra Rugby Club attended Mr Smith’s funeral last Friday, which was held at the Cowra Civic Centre. 

The Cowra High and Cowra Rugby communities have been in mourning since his sudden death on June 1, 2017. 

Speakers at the service included teachers Megan Perkins and Amelia Eldridge, Ian Robertson, Di Watt and Kurt Fearnley. 

Cowra High School Deputy Principal, Mr Paul Bullock, spoke on behalf of the school at the service, retelling stories from both staff and students.  

He said, “Poppa Bear’s legend will live on”. 

Peter Watt from the Cowra Rugby Club also spoke on behalf of the Cowra Eagles, saying Mr Smith’s dedication to the club as a player, member and manager was unmatched. 

The Cowra Eagles and CSU Bathurst also observed a minute’s silence to remember the life of Mr Smith before the Blowes Clothing Cup round eight match at the Cowra Rugby Grounds on June 3.

"He's a life member of our rugby club but his legacy will also be remembered across schoolboy rugby as well,” Peter Watt said on behalf of the Eagles. 

“He did also manage a couple of years, with Col Jeffs, the Western Plains side, so his depth of association with rugby was clear.

“If Bear was here, he'd probably be saying in his direct language, 'will you bastards just get on with the game.'

“He really was a huge friend of us all and there'll be a huge gap on this veranda.

“He'll be sorely missed."

Mr Smith was born and raised in Carcoar and Cowra and attended Cowra High School before undertaking university study in Armidale. 

He and wife Debra returned to Cowra in the mid-80’s to work as teachers at Cowra High School, in the Science/Agriculture and English departments respectively. 

He leaves behind Debra and son Huw. He was 54.