OPTIMIST: Malcolm Woolford with daughter Kathryn O’Connor at a family wedding in 2009.MALCOLM WOOLFORD

Born: May 10, 1917

Died: November 21, 2011

Funeral: St Philip’s Catholic Church, Kotara South, November 26, 2011

MAL Woolford was a talented jeweller and watchmaker, a loving father and husband, and a loyal friend.

But he will always be remembered as an eternal optimist, right up until his final days.

Mal, well-known and well-liked by colleagues and friends, lost his battle with prostate cancer on November 21. He was 94.

Anyone who knew the Kotara South great-grandfather will recall some of his favourite sayings such as ‘‘Never seen the world so bright,’’ ‘‘I’m on top of the world’’ and ‘‘I wouldn’t be dead for quids’’.

It was this larrikin attitude and his glass- half-full outlook that made him an endearing part of the community and a man honoured by his peers for his passion for horse racing and rugby league.

Mal was the eldest of four children, born to Robert and Clara Woolford in Western Australia on May 10, 1917. The family moved around during his childhood before finally resting in Newcastle.

Mal followed in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather when he went into the family business as a watchmaker and jeweller.

But his path into the career he would hold for 47 years wasn’t always set in stone.

At the age of 16, Mal decided he wouldn’t mind becoming a priest.

His father took him to meet Monsignor Peters who advised him to come back in a few years if he still felt the same way.

His daughter, Kathryn O’Connor, said luckily for his future wife, Mal had a change of heart.

Mal met Joan in his late teens and the pair married on Caulfield Cup day in 1939, an appropriate day considering Mal’s love for horse racing. The couple moved to Islington and welcomed their first five children: Diana, Patricia, Robyn, Kenneth and Kathryn.

Around the time of their nuptials, Mal took over his father’s watch repair business in Hunter Street, Newcastle.

Mal was best known for his work on watches and jewellery in Newcastle and later at Jesmond Shopping Centre.

The family business grew to be one of the most popular of its kind in the Hunter and it wasn’t until 1986 that Mal finally retired.

By then the family had moved to New Lambton Heights where they had three more children: Mary-Louise, Joanne and Mark.

They raised the children in New Lambton Heights until they retired to Kotara South.

Mal was an active participant in several organisations including the Newcastle Jockey Club and Western Suburbs Leagues Club.

He was on the committee at the NJC for many years and became a life member.

His family said he treated Wests Leagues Club as his second home. ‘‘If you were looking for Dad on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday you’d find him there enjoying a beer, having a bet and socialising. He was a well-known and well-loved man around the club,’’ Kathryn said.

Newcastle Rugby League rewarded his services to the game by naming the club championship trophy in his honour.

Mal famously won the 1961 Newcastle Gold Cup with horse Rock Mal at the odds of 33-1.

Later in life he helped introduce the Jungle Juice Cup to Cessnock races.

In 2002, Joan passed away and Mal asked his sister to move in with him. The pair, who rarely saw each other after Margaret married and settled in Queensland at a young age, spent the next nine years together. In his later years, Mal loved nothing better than having his family come to visit. He was always keen to share his stories and memories with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Before the death of his brother Len, Mal and another brother, Harry, would meet weekly.

Mal’s 90th birthday was a special occasion, with a huge number of friends, family and well-wishers in attendance.

Mal is survived by seven children, 16 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

The family would like to thank his sister Margaret, the community nurses and palliative care team who looked after him as well as his physician Dr Milton Sales, who provided care, devotion and companionship.