Johnny Foss was born into a grand Irish family from Ballycastle but as with almost everything associated with his life, there was a twist; his actual place of birth was India. His exotic place of birth allowed distance from both the world of inherited rank and entitlement in his family lands and from the English class system which he so derided.
John loathed pretence and was merciless in ridiculing snobbery; a keen consumer of left-leaning media, accessing all manner of current opinion from the Guardian Weekly through to The Irish Times (online) he sought fairness in all aspects of life.
John was a brilliant award-winning landscape architect who leaves the benefit of his considerable talent in many large-scale public works in both England and Australia. An early adopter of computer technology he became a defacto IT consultant before the role had been invented; he mastered difficult technologies in CAD which is now a platform in design.
His vast generosity carried him through some tough times when he was able to lean somewhat heavily on his close friends as he did battle with drinking, a battle which he eventually won. In so doing, after a significantly lengthy ban on driving, he developed one of the great passions of his life, that of motorised cycling. This passion which was born of necessity, led John to develop an intimate knowledge and love of the back roads of Byron Shire and it was on his favourite stretch of road that his life ended.
As with so much of what John touched, it was to become a compelling activity which was revealed in three stages. Firstly he developed a motorised bike of magnificent quality, a beautiful riding machine inspired by his love for the Norton motorbikes he had ridden in his student days in Leeds. Two models of his bikes bore locally inspired names, the Billinudgel Bullet and the Tyagarah Tiger, finely crafted high performance within the legal parameters.
Wishing to expand the canvas and seeking appropriate recognition of these excellent machines he adopted a new persona, that of Giacomo Fosscati, the brilliant son of the legendary Italian cyclist Enzio Fosscati who was a central character in the third manifestation of John’s bike passion, creative writing. Nothing in half measure, John wrote, with assistance from Al Murray of Ocean Shores, a marathon novel describing the trajectory of the invention of the Fosscati bikes. He used it as a means to express, entertain and heal himself while harbouring the thought that the novel may launch him to the same level of celebrity as J K Rowling, Giacomo Fosscati jostling for celebrity status with Harry Potter.
The manuscript remains unpublished, arrested in its progress as are other projects which John was actively involved in at the time of his death. Perhaps his most brilliant achievement was the arrival of enduring sobriety, an inspiration to others and the foundation which enabled him to occupy the status of a sober and conscious man contributing strongly to his community.
John was a very active member of the Marine Rescue NSW, Brunswick Heads, as well as a steady supporter of those in the community who were traversing the same territory which he had done. His dedicated approach meant that he mastered each new activity and his enormous intelligence enabled him to become adept in each of those new endeavours.
John recently commented ‘This year my life is so wonderful there should be background music.’ He had achieved a state of peace and tranquillity light years from the troubled man he was three decades earlier. He shared his last years with his companion Nanette in whom he delighted. He was loved by many and adored by those fortunate enough to have been closely touched by his brilliant, playful and highly irreverent spirit. Vale Johnny!
Image: Johnny Foss (aka Giacomo Fosscati) working on one of his motorized bicycles. Photo http://fosscati.wordpress.com