Vale March 2009

BELL, Robert Stanley |  BLOOMFIELD, David |  CLELAND, Julia (Julie) Lesley |  COLE, Robert Rothsay, OBE, MC |  CONSTANTINOU, Sir George |  DAVIES, Robert Gregory |  DIERCKE, Michael B |  FITZHERBERT, John |  GAJDUSEK, Dr D Carleton |  GENTLE, Martin Rowland |  JOHNSON (née BOCK), Esme Eleanor Jessie JOHNSON, Eric Christopher |  KENNEDY, Robert Bruce |  KWAN CHEE TAI, Perry |  LEAHY, Sir Daniel Joseph |  SPEAKMAN, David |  TREAGUST, Johnathon |  UECHTRITZ, Alfred Max Parkinson |  YOUNG, Ernest Bain | 

 

Robert Stanley BELL (4 November 2008, aged 84)

Bob was born at Moore Park and with his brothers and sisters grew up in the Eastern Suburbs and the St George District attending school at Sans Souci.  His studies to qualify as an Accountant were interrupted by WWII when, at the age of 18, he joined the RAAF on Anzac Day 1942.

Following training as a pilot he saw service in New Guinea flying Beaufort Bombers in the Wewak area where he suffered a burst ear drum which had him repatriated to Concord Rehab Hospital for some six months receiving treatment. Bob was discharged from the Air Force in 1946, following which he decided a career in New Guinea would be far more satisfying than working as an accountant hemmed in by the four walls of an office. He attended No. 5 Short Course of ASOPA and subsequently took up a posting to Northern District and then to Kerema, Aitape and New Britain. A two-year course at ASOPA followed in 1953-1954.  During this latter period he met and married Barbara in Sydney in September 1954 and was posted to Tufi on return. Subsequent postings included Kavieng, Namatanai, Erave, Wabag, Mt Hagen (where he supervised the building of the Showground), Manus Island, and Mendi.

At the time of Independence being granted Bob was DC of Enga District in the Western Highlands. In the early 1970s Bob brushed up on his flying and on qualifying bought a Cessna 172. Later he upgraded to a Cessna 182 as he was then serving in the Highlands and a larger engine was a wise provision. This also meant he could ferry the children back and forth from boarding school for vacation. Bob retired after 30 years in PNG, graduating from Patrol Officer to District Commissioner. 

eadowbank became their home for 14 years and in 1991 they moved to Beecroft where Bob had many interests: gardening, renovating their home, the stock market and travelling (including cruises in the later years).  Bob is survived by his wife Barbara, daughter Susan, sons Gordon and Allan and their respective families. Barbara Bell

 

David BLOOMFIELD (29 November 2008)

David was part of the forward deployment strategy to protect Australia from a possible Japanese invasion. He was 17 years old when he left Australia, much against the wishes of his parents. He was one of 70 manning heavy anti-aircraft guns when the Japanese attacked Rabaul in huge numbers on 23 January 1942. The Australians were absolutely overwhelmed, with huge losses of men, with the consequence that the order was given, ‘Every man for himself.’  David joined a group of men who made for the hills and found themselves in almost impenetrable jungle. Eventually they faced starvation and some died on the escape from malaria, whilst others were seized by the enemy and bayonetted. David had made up his mind never to surrender and he had some very lucky escapes on route to the coast. He was suffering from malaria and starvation every day but showed great fortitude in helping others who were near death. Eventually and most unexpectedly, to the great relief of those who had made their way to the coast after many weeks, volunteers from New Guinea were sighted in a small boat.  About 100 men were rescued and taken to Pt Moresby and later to Australia.

When David died he was the last survivor from his unit. We were married 62½ years. David wrote of this time in 1942 in his book Rabaul Diary.  Anna Bloomfield

 

Julia (Julie) Lesley CLELAND (10 December 2008, aged 77)

Julie came to Papua New Guinea in 1955 to be married to Bob, a Patrol Officer fresh out of his cadetship. City born and bred, her first home was a small pitpit and thatch house on a remote Eastern Highlands base camp. She loved the country and its people from the start and was never concerned about isolation or rough conditions. After a move to Kainantu, then a year at ASOPA, Bob and Julie were posted to Daru, then Balimo in the Western District. Here, she encouraged the old men to revive and pass on their wood carving skills. She organised a market for them through the Port Moresby Guide Shop. She made history with the first European birth at Balimo when their second daughter was born in the spare bedroom after the regular aircraft couldn’t land.

Then followed six years in Lae where she became active with the town’s women’s clubs. Impatient with the established, formal Welfare Section approach, she encouraged fresh thought, independent organisation and practical projects where her handcraft skills were very useful. Many wives of the town’s leading citizens, and their daughters, proudly wore dresses expertly sewn and fitted by Julie. Her cooking and hospitality skills were frequently appreciated—especially by the District’s single kiaps and others just passing through.

Another year at ASOPA, then to Kokopo during the time of the Mataungan situation. Again, women’s clubs claimed her interest. Quickly appreciated by the Tolai women, they ensured that Julie was totally safe visiting clubs in staunch Mataungan areas.

Finally coming full circle, Julie and Bob were posted to the Highlands, first to Chuave, Chimbu District, then to Goroka in the Eastern Highlands. Some minor health problems began to intrude on Julie’s preferred activities, so the last three years of Julie’s 21-year PNG residency were quieter for her than previously.  Settled in Brisbane, and despite an often painful back, Julie was a regular visitor to a succession of residents in several retirement villages close to her home. She fought back from two major health crises in the ‘80s and ‘90s. In recent years, chronic lung illness and increasingly frequent spells in hospital curtailed her mobility but not her toughness and will to survive. Looking forward to loved theatre and ballet events seemed to prolong her life and provide an extra layer of enjoyment.

She died in hospital peacefully and without pain. Julie is survived by husband Bob, daughters Susan and Kathryn, and grandchildren Andrea, Trent, Heather, Brigitte and Curtis. Bob Cleland

 

Robert Rothsay COLE, OBE, MC (24 November 2008, aged 95)

PNG District Commissioner, Commissioner of Police RP&NGC, Honorary Colonel PNGVR

Bob Cole joined the TNG administration on 2 November 1938, enlisted at Wewak 22 January 1940 and was discharged 12 November 1945. His valuable service behind enemy lines in New Guinea during the Pacific War won him the Military Cross. Primarily a kiap, Bob was appointed first District Commissioner of the Western Highlands District, subsequently the first permanent District Commissioner of the Southern Highlands District—the then frontier Highlands District—in 1954 and later District Commissioner of the huge Sepik District (destined to be split into two). His popular appointment as Commissioner of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) on 8 December 1964 almost coincided with the introduction of the smart new blue police uniform which replaced the dark blue serge uniform with red cummerbund (sulu, laplap, cartridge belt, handcuff chain with bayonet and scabbard and, from 1955, the beret), a legacy of the Royal Papuan Constabulary.

Bob was seen as ‘a breath of fresh air’ for the RPNGC. Many of the senior native police had served with him during the New Guinea campaign and he toured most police stations and remote patrol posts where native police served. During his term as police Commissioner, Bob introduced changes including an extension of areas under police jurisdiction, creation of the Special Branch and the promulgation of new orders and regulations which revitalised the RPNGC giving it direction and preparing it for Papua New Guinea’s independence. His wife, Kay, pre-deceased him. He is survived by his sons, Rob and James.

 

Sir George CONSTANTINOU (16 December 2008, aged 75)

Sir George was murdered during an attack apparently involving rascals at one of his timber yards in Port Moresby near the controversial Tete settlement at Gerehu understood to be on State owned land. Born in Cyprus and arriving in PNG during the early 50s, Sir George quickly adapted himself to both the country of PNG and its people. He established the business Papuan Welders in Port Moresby. He founded the Hebou Group of companies, developing a civil building and construction business empire including roads, hotels and apartments. A keen Rugby League player, later referee, Sir George owned and sponsored the local Broncos team. More than 600 people attended his funeral in Brisbane including the PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, who described Sir George as a great man, visionary and innovator. Info from the Post Courier and The Australian, and also with thanks to the Gold Coast Papua New Guinea Club Inc.

 

Robert Gregory DAVIES  (5 October 2008, aged 68)

Bob was born in Cremorne, Sydney. He left St Aloysius’ College after Fourth Year, when his father passed away, and took a job with MLC Insurance.  Bob could not see himself spending the rest of his working life in insurance, so when he turned 21 he gained a teacher training opportunity within PNG on the recently established E Course, set up to help staff the expanding primary system that was optimistically aimed, in line with firm UN recommendations, at universal primary education in the country. 

He spent three stints working in PNG—a total of 36 years.  From 1961 to 1979 he worked in East New Britain, East Sepik, and Manus. From 1982 to 1987 he was secondary headmaster in the East Sepik and Eastern Highlands.  And for his last period in the country—1990 to 2000—he worked as a secondary headmaster in Madang and deputy h/m in West New Britain.  He reluctantly said goodbye to PNG for the last time in December 2000.

Apart from teaching, for which he had a special talent, he was an enthusiastic member of the PNGVR, Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles: often called the ‘Weekend Warriors’ by the cynical.  He also served for three years as a councillor with the Wewak Local Government Council where his sense of humour and flair for organisation were greatly valued. 

In the broader community he will be remembered particularly for his prowess on the tennis court.  He represented PNG several times at South Pacific Games and won gold and silver medals for his efforts.  His last involvement was as PNG team coach for both men and women for the 1984 Games in American Samoa.  Paul Dennett

 

Michael  B DIERCKE (11 December 2008, aged 51)

Michael, born Vunapope ENB, was a fourth generation member of the Coe-Parkinson families (Queen Emma line). He lived at Induna, Reiven, Mandres and Rapopo plantations. His education included enrolment at Ulapia College ENB with fellow classmate Joseph Kabui. Michael worked in the stevedoring industry at Panguna in the 1970s, enlisted in the Australian Army, then worked for Sydney Water Board and finally joined National Parks and Wildlife in the Blue Mountains. Michael came to know the Gazelle Peninsula very closely as a keen military buff.  He died in Katoomba Hospital after a few years of suffering from mesothelioma and will be interred at the family Parkinson mat-mat Kuradui, ENB. He is survived by his mother Gwen, his siblings, Chris, Larry, Rosie and Frank, and children Marcus and Monica.  Chris Diercke

 

John FITZHERBERT (17 October 2008)

John was a former RAAF member, accountant and long term PNG treasury official.  He joined the PNG public service in 1948, spent time in Rabaul, Madang and Port Moresby, finally departing in 1974.  Ian Morton

 

 

Dr D Carleton GAJDUSEK (13 December 2008, aged 85)

Carleton Gajdusek was born in New York, the son of a Slovak father and a Hungarian mother. He received his degree from Harvard Medical School in 1946, specializing in paediatrics. In 1951 he spent two years as a research virologist at the Institut Pasteur in Tehran, then became a visiting researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, working with Sir Macfarlane Burnet.

On his way home he visited Papua New Guinea as part of his search for unique diseases to study. In the Goroka Hotel he met Dr Vincent Zigas, who told him about a disease the people called kuru, from the Fore word meaning ‘to shake’. Dr Gajdusek was fascinated: he visited Okapa immediately and stayed involved with the study of the disease in the years ahead. He realised that the victims had all participated in an ancient funerary ritual where women and children consumed the brains of the deceased (the custom was formally banned in 1959). Further studies by Dr Gajdusek and others showed that a similar infectious agent was responsible for scrapie in sheep, for Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans and for its variant commonly known as mad cow disease.

In 1976 Dr Gajdusek was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. He later helped other researchers find genetically isolated populations that helped shed light on the causes of other rare illnesses. From 1970 until 1997 he headed the brain studies laboratory at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. His work productivity was enormous. He legally adopted numerous children from New Guinea and Micronesia. The adoptees regarded him as their father and he spent much of his own money raising and educating them. However in 1996 he was charged with molesting one boy (by then an adult) and served a year in gaol. Dr Gajdusek spent the last ten years of his life in Europe, visited by the children he raised, colleagues, and friends. He still travelled the world, gave lectures, received international honours, and met with dignitaries. In addition to his many adopted children, Dr Gajdusek is survived by two nephews.  From an obituary in the Los Angeles Times 18 December 2008 and The Age 6 January 2009 and from Dr Roger Rodrigue

 

Martin Rowland GENTLE (14 October 2008, aged 61)

Aged 19, he became an APO in June 1966 and opened his service within Native Affairs at Minj. Mike Press, a contemporary, represented PNG at the funeral in Darwin. Jim Toner

 

Esme Eleanor Jessie JOHNSON (née Bock) (7 June 2008, aged 87) Eric Christopher JOHNSON (8 June 2008, aged 90)

Both Esme and Eric had become increasingly frail following serious falls and subsequent complications earlier in the year. They were a devoted couple and while their deaths within twenty-four hours of each other were somewhat remarkable and very sad, their family agrees that for either to have survived longer without the other would have been just as sad. Esme was born in Port Moresby in 1920, the daughter of Walter and Madge Bock. Walter Bock joined the Government Printing Office in Moresby in 1912 and was Government Printer during much of his time there. After secondary schooling in North Queensland, Esme worked for a time in Burns Philp’s Moresby office. Eric joined the Bank of New South Wales in North Queensland and in 1938 was transferred to Port Moresby where he met and married Esme.

The couple moved to Brisbane and Eric joined the AIF, serving in Australia, Papua and Borneo. After the war he rejoined the Bank and the family moved to various posts in Queensland and enjoyed a two-year posting to Port Moresby from 1948. The family grew to seven with the births of Alan, Lynne, Lesley, Merryl and Geoffrey. Esme was a dedicated collector and documenter of the births, deaths and marriages (and much in between) of many people in her own family and the families of others. Eric was very supportive of her work and travelled extensively with her throughout Australia, the UK and the US. Following Eric’s retirement in 1975 Eric and Esme threw themselves energetically into their various passions: for Eric it was golf, gardening, choir singing and tennis, for Esme it was her genealogical ‘digging’, gardening, mahjong and solo. Eric and Esme are survived by four of their children (Geoff having died in 2004), grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and Esme’s brother Wally Bock.  Lynne Johnson

 

Robert Bruce KENNEDY (9 February 2008, aged 95)

Bruce arrived in Port Moresby in 1946 following his discharge from the Australian Army. He was employed by the Australasian Petroleum Company in the field drilling for oil and in 1952, following his marriage, he was transferred to the APC base at Napa Napa (20 minutes by boat from Port Moresby as there were no roads from Napa Napa in those days). In 1957 Bruce, with his wife and two children, moved to the APC base at Badili, a suburb of Port Moresby, where Bruce continued to work as an electrician. When Oil Search (the parent company for APC) began to reduce their financial support in the drilling for oil, staff were advised to find alternative employment. Bruce joined the PNG Electricity Commission. For the last few years prior to his retirement in 1973 Bruce was the electrician in charge at the Port Moresby General Hospital. 

Bruce is survived by his wife Louise, his children Robert and Susan and five grandchildren. Louise Kennedy

 

 

Perry KWAN CHEE TAI (20 January 2009, aged 72)

Perry was the second of ten children to Mr and Mrs Kwan Wah of Kavieng. His siblings were Henry, James, Marina (deceased), Judy (deceased), Edward, Cecilia, Richard, David and Patricia. Perry’s dedication and interest in the people of New Ireland was well known and he was affectionately known by the locals as Masta Bow Tai. From 1962 onwards he moved between Port Moresby and Kavieng.  His eldest brother, Henry, remained in Madang but the other siblings all moved to Australia.  Perry was quite a good artist and did all the calligraphic Chinese signs for the shops in Kavieng, Lae and Port Moresby. He made friends easily and his family enjoyed hearing about his many adventures. From April to June 1972 he was Speaker of the 3rd House of Assembly.  Perry was the Member for Kavieng open from 1972 to 1977 and also spent time as Ambassador to the Philippines. Ben Scheelings  

 

 

Sir Daniel Joseph LEAHY (4 January 2009, aged 78)

 

Danny Leahy and his older brother Tom left Toowoomba in 1947 and worked for their Uncle, the late Mick Leahy of Zenag in the Morobe District of New Guinea. After several years Danny went Gold Mining in the Bulolo Gorge whilst Tommy opened up a farm in the Markham Valley after a period of gold mining on the Upper Watut. Ultimately Danny worked with Tom for a period before going to Goroka to work for his Uncle, Jim Leahy, in 1950.

Danny worked his own Coffee Plantation on the Bena until 1960 when he joined Eddie Collins in forming the famous partnership, Collins and Leahy. They bought out PW Reilly who had a trading venture in Goroka, and became Coffee Traders, Coffee Processors and Exporters. The Company was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and was famous for paying a dividend of 100% in every year of its operation. They became interested in real estate, and in the late 80s purchased a controlling interest in Steamships Trading Company.

Danny also had an interest in Heavy Lift Russian Helicopters, and he was Knighted in the 1990s for services to Papua New Guinea.

Sir Daniel’s funeral was attended by over seven hundred people and he was mourned by two ex-PNG Prime Ministers and Meg Taylor, the Daughter of ex-Kiap the late Jim Taylor. Bob Curtis

 

David SPEAKMAN  (18 January 2009, aged 71)

David was the last Clerk of the House of Assembly prior to Papua New Guinea’s independence. In 1962 he was sent to the Australian School of Pacific Administration in Sydney for a training course. He served for 19 years in TPNG, rising from a Cadet Patrol Officer to be the Clerk of the House of Assembly. After he left and returned to the UK he continued to advise the fledgling government on the parliamentary standing orders. His passion, drive and love for Papua New Guinea is instilled in all of us children who grew up in this magic place.  He is survived by his wife Ann and their three children Elizabeth, David & Michael.  David G. Woolcock

 

Robert John TEBBLE (11 October 2008, aged 84)

Bob moved to Port Moresby from Brisbane in 1956 and worked for the Department of Civil Affairs. In 1960 he transferred to Police Headquarters and later worked for the Dept District Administration, eventually becoming Assistant Commissioner in the Office of Local Government until 1976.  Bob’s wife Iris worked for the Supply & Tenders Board in Treasury. Both Bob and Iris were active members of the Port Moresby Arts Council and Iris performed in many plays. Iris pre-deceased Bob on 16 November 2007.   Linda Moran (née Tebble)

 

Jonathan TREAGUST (8 November 2008, aged 37)

The sudden and unexpected death of Jonathan Treagust in Bangkok has shocked and saddened many people in Australia, PNG, Britain and SE Asia. Jon was raised in PNG from age 3 to 18 (1974-1989) where his parents (Cherry and David Treagust) were high school teachers. His father David ended his career in PNG as Principal of Aiyura National High School in Eastern Highlands Province. Jon did his schooling in PNG, and attended Ukarumpa High School. After school, he studied for a BSc in Rural Resource Management at Silsoe College in the UK. He returned to PNG to commence his working life. Details are: Field Manager Aviamp Tea, Western Highlands (1994-1995); Crop Manager, Poliamba Oil Palm, New Ireland (1996-1999); study for Master of Science degree in Management for Agricultural Development, Crafield University, UK (1999-2000); Agricultural Program Manager, Children’s Aid Direct, North Korea (2000-2001); Self-employed landscaping business; Portsmouth, UK (2002-2004); and CARE Australia (2005-2008). Jon was based at CARE’s Melbourne office where he was responsible for CARE’s programs in PNG, Thailand and Burma, as well as anti-trafficking and agricultural development programs in Southeast Asia.

Jon had a great affection for PNG and its people and retained in close contact with many PNG and expatriate friends from his high school days there. He worked on many CARE programs in PNG, including one evaluating sweet potato varieties, water and sanitation projects, poverty reduction and support for refugees from the Manam Island volcanic eruption. He was a generous person, was always supportive and respectful of his PNG colleagues, had a huge capacity for work, was creative, and intelligent, but humble. He is greatly missed. He is survived by his wife Naomi, parents (Cherry and David) and sisters (Rachael and Sara).  Mike Bourke

 

 

Alfred Max Parkinson UECHTRITZ (13 December 2008, aged 82)

Alf was a part of New Guinea History. Grandson of Richard Parkinson—famed anthropologist, botanist, planter, surveyor and author who introduced commercial coconut plantations and livestock to New Britain—and his much loved and respected wife and co-worker Phebe.  Pioneers both, they established a foundation of knowledge associated with botanical and anthropological heritage of the islands and set up a deeply respectful association with the Tolai and Bainings peoples of East New Britain, which continued on through Alf. Phebe’s sister ‘Queen Emma’ was Alf’s Great Aunt.

Alf was born prematurely in a small boat in New Britain waters somewhere between his home, Sum-Sum plantation, and Kokopo. On making landfall a birth certificate was signed by Dr Phyllis Magloo, who later became Lady Cilento.  Unfortunately an idyllic plantation life was to be shattered by events associated with the two wars of the 1940s: German and Japanese. Alf’s education at St Ignatius Sydney had to be cut short, but not long after returning to the plantation, he and his stepmother and half brother had to evacuate to Australia, just ahead of the Japanese.

Alf, still a teenager, picked up jobs where he could—mostly on the land—and incidentally acquired knowledge and skills which were to prove of great benefit later on.  After the war Alf returned to Sum-Sum to restore and manage it. Jeeps were plentiful and cheap and he bought four for the plantation. Thus began a lifelong interest in jeeps and Military vehicles.

In Rabaul he met and married Mary Lou. Their first six children were born in Rabaul. Then followed a few years on Australian properties: sheep/cattle/crops and four more children. However, the call of his homeland was too strong and he and family returned to New Guinea: to the Markham Valley and Erap DASF Agricultural Station. He founded and taught (in pidgin) the Farmer Training School there and became Supervisor of other such schools throughout the country. The schools were mainly for simple village folk who wished to start cattle projects but needed a certificate of relevant knowledge and experience before getting Bank loans. Alf persuaded 15 ‘Big Men’ of the area to combine their land to make ‘Zifasing Cattle Ranch’ which he then managed and it prospered.

In 1988 he left for Australia, settling on a son’s fruit and cattle farm near Innisfail. However he and Mary Lou frequently revisited PNG, especially New Britain.  In 2004, following the discovery of Phebe’s grave near the Japanese POW camp in New Ireland, where she died, Alf led the ceremonies for her re-burial in the Parkinson family mat-mat [cemetery] at Kuradui near Kokopo.

Alf’s ashes will eventually also be interred in this mat-mat.  In Innisfail, Alf’s coffin was carried on one of his jeeps with a Guard of Honour of friends in Military vehicles.  Alf is survived by wife Mary Lou, his ten children and thirty five grandchildren. Mary Lou Uechtritz

 

Ernest Bain YOUNG (19 November 2008, aged 88)

Ernie joined RPNGC (P121) on 14 April 1953 and served at Port Moresby, Wewak, for many years at Rabaul, Mt Hagen and finally at Konedobu until retiring on 16 December 1974 as a Senior Superintendent.  He was awarded the Police Long Service & Good Conduct Medal. Prior to coming to PNG, he served in the NSW Police Force from 1 April 1937 until 1 April 1953, during which he served in RAAF aircrew as a Sergeant wireless air gunner from March 1944 to September 1945. After PNG he became a publican at Collector, NSW, and was later involved in a security business. He is survived by Marie and children Sandra and Warren. Warren Young and Maxwell Hayes

 

 

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