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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12151

Mr NEVILLE (HinklerThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (10:43): On 20 September, Bundaberg lost one of its finest of those who call Bundaberg home. John Joseph Byrne died at the age of 82, and he was a true pillar of the local community. Amongst the groups and clubs he served were the Brothers Sports Club, the Mater Hospital Advisory Board, Bundaberg Rugby League, the Catholic Cemetery Trust, Mercy Health and Aged Care Central Queensland, Bundaberg Rotary, and a number of school parents and friends committees.

With strong Irish roots, John Byrne loved a Saturday flutter on the horses and networked with his tipster friends, but his greatest love was football. As an early mentor of the Brothers Sports Club, he became its president and, fittingly, a life member. He also became a life member of Bundaberg Rugby League shortly before his death. In 2003 he was named Bundaberg's Australia Day Citizen of the Year, and the following year he was awarded an OAM. On top of all his community work, John Byrne was also well known for his long-time association with the town's last independent department store, Buss and Turner, of which he was the manager until his retirement in 1993.

The remarkable thing about John was that he never sought thanks or special recognition for his contributions, and perhaps that is what stood him apart from many others. Despite his obvious dedication to the community, John's love of family trumped it all. His son Peter, now CEO of the Bundaberg Regional Council, recalled a father who was always there for the nearest and dearest of his flock. He said:

But as busy as he was in life, his family always came first. Nothing compromised that.

John has lived a good life based on a strong Catholic faith … He's been a leader, mentor and friend to many.

The esteem in which John was held—not just by his family but by the wider community as well—was evident when a crowd of more than 650 people, including the Bishop of Rockhampton, Brian Heenan, the Catholic Diocese Vicar General, Father John Grace, and five priests, attended his funeral on 26 September. It was a very moving celebration of a life well lived in faith and commitment—a tribute to one of those people who can truly be called a man for all seasons.

It was my privilege to see John the day before he died, a time that I will cherish. John leaves behind his wife of 60 years, Josie, six children—two pre-deceased him—eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Vale John Byrne.