Vale December 2000

ALLEN, George Barry |  (about Sept 1998) BELL, Betty (Eve) |  (23 September 2000) BRADLEY, Bob (Barramundi Bob) |  (August 2000) CASS, Leslie Augustus |  (10 August 2000) FALCONER (née Kleckham), Marjorie |  (25 July 2000) FLYNN, Rev Dr Frank, MSc, AC, AO |  (July 2000) GASH, Noel |  (June 2000) GUNTHER, Edna Mary |  (9 May 2000) JOHNSON, Sir Les, KBE |  (31 August 2000) McPHERSON (née Richardson), Maureen Therese |  (18 March 2000) PECKOVER, William Sydney |  (26 July 2000) POHAI, Sir Timothy |  (19 April 2000) PRATT (née Munro), Joan Elaine |  (10 March 2000) SEARLE, Louis Keller, MC |  (8 September 2000)  

Betty (Eve) BELL (23 September 2000, aged 72)

Betty was the widow of former agricultural officer John William Bell, who predeceased her by many years. In 1950 Eve joined John in PNG and soon they were posted to the Kainantu Sub-District. John helped establish Aiyura Agricultural Station. The Bell family was stationed at Aiyura, Bereina, Popondetta and Lae in the ’50s and ’60s. The family left PNG in 1967 to settle in the Hills out of Perth where they built their home. By this time there were five Bell children: Wendy, John, Julia, Jennifer and Peter.

Betty was a popular member of the community wherever she lived, with her easy-going manner, great sense of humour and generous spirit. Her interests were wide, and she was a keen and serious collector of butterflies, in contact with and respected by lepidopterists throughout the world. In her later years she concentrated on creative writing, especially poetry. She died peacefully at her Glen Forrest (WA) home from complications following an attack of influenza.

At Betty’s funeral service, son Peter said that a copy of Una Voce was placed in the coffin with Eve. He said that she greatly enjoyed reading it each quarter, and regarded it as an important link with friends and times spent in New Guinea.

Betty is greatly mourned by her five children, 16 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren and her many friends. Jane Belfield and Geoffrey Gray


George Barry ALLEN (about Sept 1998, aged 79)

George was born in New Zealand and joined the Royal Papuan Constabulary and New Guinea Police Force in October 1949. He served in Port Moresby, Lae, Higaturu, Popondetta and elsewhere. He resigned in November 1967 as Inspector First Class to reside in Queensland. Max Hayes


Marjorie FALCONER (née Kleckham) (25 July 2000, aged 50)

Marjorie passed away after a long and hard battle with leukaemia. She spent most of her childhood and primary education in Port Moresby before going on to St Peters Lutheran College in Brisbane. She returned to Moresby to work for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs before taking off to travel and work overseas, spending time in India and Greece before going on to the UK to work. Here she met her future husband and after marriage in Port Moresby returned to the UK where she had a son and then migrated to Australia where she had her second son. In Sydney she worked for Link Communications and VitalCall where she was highly regarded. 

Marjorie was a very direct and positive person with a large circle of highly valued friends. She is survived by her sons Dominic and Gideon and grandchildren Jesse and Elle, son and daughter of Gideon.


Maureen Therese McPHERSON (née Richardson) (18 March 2000)

Maureen was a long-time secretary in the Burns Philp office in Samarai, Madang and Lae, and her husband Joe was Shipping Manager at these centres and Accountant. Maureen is survived by her husband Joe, and daughters Julia and Jacqueline and their families.


Noel GASH (June 2000)

At the outbreak of WW2, Noel joined the army and served as a gunner in PNG for four years. On his return to Australia he studied history and later taught at Sydney Technical College and Balmain Teachers College. In the early 60s he was seconded to The Australian School of Pacific Administration. The School attracted some of Australia’s top academics and Noel revelled in the opportunities ASOPA offered for research and travel, and teaching. He wrote articles and books, his best known publication being A Pictorial History of New Guinea. Later he held a lecturing position at Kuring-gai College of Advanced Education until his retirement in 1981.

Noel was a foundation member of the University of the Third Age (U3A) and was very active in that organisation. He also monitored local government activities. Noel is survived by Eva, his partner of 26 years, and six children of an earlier marriage. Condensed from an obituary written by June Whittaker and published in Garamut


Leslie Augustus CASS (10 August 2000, aged 76)

Les Cass went to Popondetta in the Northern District in 1953, after service as a teacher in Victoria and in the Education Wing of the RAAF at Wagga. He was accompanied by his wife Kaye, also a teacher, and their children Lee and Peter.

Les was posted to Sogeri Senior High School in 1956-57. Many of his students were later among the first wave of PNG’s senior public servants, politicians and business leaders. One of his students, Nagama Geno, by then a senior Education official, told Les’s son Peter, “We used to call your father Mr Shortcut. He made us work really hard until we understood the principles involved in solving a maths problem. Then he would say, ‘Now I’ll show you the shortcut’,” From Sogeri, Les went as Principal to Brandi High School, East Sepik, then for a short time became District Education Officer, Bougainville, at the time of the Hahalis disturbances.

He then moved to the Milne Bay District in 1961, remaining there, first at Samarai and then Alotau, until 1970. During this time he oversaw considerable expansion of the primary school system and the establishment of Cameron High School. After a stint at Konedobu in the early 70s he was posted to Wewak and Kavieng as District Superintendent. Education was something of a family business: Les, Kay, sons Lee and Peter, and Peter’s wife Pauleen all worked for the department at this time. Les’s final post was as Superintendent of the International Education Unit. He retired in 1975, moving to Rockhampton, where he and his son Philip graduated together from the University of Central Queensland, and to Nambour in 1981.

Les is survived by his wife Kaye, and children Lee, Peter and Philip. Peter Cass


William Sydney PECKOVER (26 July 2000, aged 78)

Bill Peckover began work as a telephonist in the Main Trunk Exchange, Sydney, in 1939. In 1942 he enlisted and served in the army telephone section until mid-1946. In February 1956 he went to PNG to take up the position of Superintendent of Telephones. He was a key figure in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs from 1956 until 1974. His last position was as first assistant director. Throughout this time he worked closely with the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Bill Carter. Both men were specialists in telecommunications which greatly benefited PNG as, over the years, telecommunications came to overshadow postal services. Bill was largely responsible for the organisation of the World Bank loan in 1968 which funded the establishment of the network of micro-wave repeater stations around the country. After Independence, Bill was First Assistant Secretary for Telecommunications in the Dept of Public Utilities between 1977 and 1979, and was later brought back as the first chief General Manager when PTC became a statutory body. He retired in 1984.

One of Bill’s legacies to PNG was the development of philately there. Bill was convinced that a good source of revenue for Posts and Telegraphs was not being tapped, so he took steps to increase foreign sales of PNG stamps. At the same time he was becoming very interested in bird photography, particularly Birds of Paradise. His photographs were used as a basis for a number of PNG stamps, one of them being the Kingfisher set of five issued on 21 January 1981. Bill was co-author with Win Filewood of Birds of New Guinea and Tropical Australia (Reed, 1976).

Following is an extract from The Independent: “Bill’s vast knowledge and enthusiasm for PNG’s natural history, and for its conservation, took him into its remote mountain and forest terrain, even when he was well into his 60s and 70s and long after he had first suffered from a heart condition. He made a major contribution to the establishment of the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area (spanning parts of Eastern Highlands, Gulf and Simbu provinces), where many of his bird photographs were taken. … He was also a founding member and director of the Research and Conservation Foundation of PNG, an active PNG non-government organisation based in Goroka, involved in research, conservation, education and community development.”

 Bill is survived by his wife Joan, children Brien and Anne (Cotter) and grandchildren Robert, Kevin and Megan. The Independent, 24 August 2000


Bob BRADLEY (Barramundi Bob) (August 2000, aged 73)

As a child Bob Bradley loved fishing and hunting. He was a natural sportsman and excelled at cricket, soccer and hockey. He learnt the trade of boilermaker-blacksmith in the air force and after the war worked for the Main Roads Department and later the railways, but fishing was his great love. In between fishing, he ran a fishing tackle and bait store for two years.

He then went to PNG and worked for Steamships Slipway in Port Moresby, and with Keith Bradford in a trucking business in Lae. Later he worked in Moresby with the brewery at Badili. During his PNG years he also was a boxer, pearl diver and trochus shell diver. He returned to Australia and spent a couple of years in various jobs, then returned to PNG for 2-3 years as an administration officer with Malaria Control services. Altogether he spent about 20 years in PNG. Bob returned to Cairns and went back to fishing. Bob is the holder of the world record for catching a 34.5 lb queenfish in the Barron River 15 years ago. He was the only person to win the international ABU Garcia fishing competition twice: the other time was with a 57 lb barramundi. He was still fishing when he felt he needed to see a doctor (he thought he had pulled a muscle). Soon afterwards he was told he had cancer and had only a short time to live.

Bob is survived by Marilyn, his wife of 35 years, and sons Glenn, Kris and Robert from his first marriage. The Cairns Post, 12 August 2000, and information from Geoff Mortensen


Sir Timothy POHAI (19 April 2000, aged 54)

Sir Timothy died in the Port Moresby hospital after a short illness. Born in Rosowen village in the Manus Province, he had a colourful and busy political career. He held many positions in both the public and private sector, and was General Secretary of the Pangu Pati under the Somare and Namaliu regimes. He was the first Lord Mayor of Lae, and was one of the directors of the Waigani Entertainment Centre, a position he held until his death. He had also been a board member of the National Gaming Board.

His funeral service was attended by many members of parliament, church leaders, friends and family. Amongst those present were the Prime Minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, Sir Michael Somare, and Pangu Pati leader Chris Haiveta.

He is survived by his wife, Lady Louisa, six children and four grandchildren.


Sir Les JOHNSON, KBE (31 August 2000, aged 84)

Sir Les Johnson was the last—and probably the most popular—of the Administrators of PNG. He played a critical role in helping PNG on the path to nationhood. His real strength throughout his long career in PNG was his ability to build friendship, trust and confidence among up-and-coming Papua New Guineans.

Les Johnson’s early life was spent in a small country town in WA. He was educated, on a scholarship, at Perth Modern School. His early working life was as a teacher at one-teacher country schools. In 1940 he married Dulcie, a union of almost 60 years until Dulcie’s death in December last year. During the war Les served in Borneo as a member of an AIF intelligence unit.

After the war he progressed through the WA Education Department and became director of in-service training. Looking back on this period, son Ian commented, “I remember my parents entertaining students from the teachers college in our home and also we had a constant influx of Asian students living with us.” During this time, quite by accident, Les saw the advertisement for the position of PNG Deputy Director of Education, a position which carried with it the good possibility of shortly becoming Director. He applied and was accepted (1962). A little later, on the retirement of Geoffrey Roscoe, Les became Director. As Director, he put the education system and teacher training on sure foundations. He argued strongly for the creation of the University of PNG and steered the legislation establishing it through the House of Assembly.

Four years later, on the strength of his ability, and despite opposition from the Secretary of the Department of Territories (George Warwick Smith), he became Assistant Administrator (Services) when Dr John Gunther became Vice-Chancellor of the newly created University of PNG. In 1970, with his term as Assistant Administrator ending, Les resigned to become principal of the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. When his services to the House of Assembly’s Select Committee on Constitutional Development looked like being lost, it was the intervention of fellow members with the Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton, that played a part in the events leading to his being offered the job of Administrator, an offer he promptly accepted.

Les worked unstintingly to see PNG take control of its own affairs and for its emerging leadership to gain as much experience as possible in handling political responsibilities. His formal role as Administrator ended in 1973, and he was made High Commissioner when PNG became self-governing. His PNG functions ended in March 1974, with career diplomat Tom Critchley assuming the High Commissioner’s post until independence in September 1975

In discharging his various responsibilities in PNG, one of his most important roles was as conciliator and honest broker. Among other things, this meant that political sessions that began in the House of Assembly often went on late into the night under the more relaxed circumstances and rules of the Johnson home. The approach remained the same when he became Administrator; he brought fine judgment to the job in winding down his position from chief executive of the Australian Administration to constitutional head of a PNG Government.

While his PNG years were undoubtedly the pinnacle of his career, he still had a professional life after PNG, as director-general of the Australian Development Assistance Agency (now AusAID) from 1974-76 and as Australian Ambassador to Greece and High Commissioner to Cyprus, 1976-80.

But it was with PNG that he and Dulcie identified wholeheartedly. Their interest in its affairs, and friendships formed there, endured throughout their retirement years in Canberra. In this year’s PNG birthday honours, he was made KBE, having been made CBE in 1976. Sir Les Johnson is survived by his daughter Fay and son Ian, and three grandchildren. The above is an abbreviated version of an obituary written by John Farquharson plus information from Ian Johnson’s eulogy. Our thanks to John for permission to publish this.


, Minister for Mining and Bougainville Affairs, which was read at the funeral service by the Hon Bart Philemon, Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation:

“I deeply regret that I could not be there today due to the current talks and negotiations on Bougainville which reached a deadlock on Wednesday in Rabaul. On behalf of myself, Veronica and the Somare family, who Dulcie and Seki are representing, we convey our profound sorrow and sympathy to Ian and Fay. Sir Leslie Johnson and your late mother Dulcie won the hearts of the people of Papua New Guinea as true friends of our people. History has recorded their contributions to education, community services and politics especially in preparing Papua New Guinea for self-government and independence. … It’s a record for an individual Australian who won the respect of so many of our people.”

Other dignitaries at the service included the PNG High Commissioner, His Excellency Mr Renagi Labia, and Mrs Lohia, and Mr Geoff Allen representing the Hon Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. A large group of Papua New Guineans, friends of the Johnsons, came up from Canberra to attend and sing at the service.


Joan Elaine PRATT (née Munro) (10 March 2000, aged 68)

Joan was born in Talwood, Qld, and educated in Sydney, training in nursing to become Theatre Sister at the Mater Hospital and Concord Repat. She came to Port Moresby in 1962 after her marriage to Norris Pratt, then with the Crown Law Office. Her three sons were born and reared in Port Moresby and later Rabaul. From 1964 till 1973 Joan and family lived on Namanula Hill. Norris was then Deputy Crown Solicitor in Rabaul. Joan created around her a centre of hospitality and warmth for family, and for the passing parade of visitors and dignitaries including the team who tried, prosecuted and defended at Jack Emmanuel’s murder trial.

After another stint in Port Moresby, Joan returned with family to St Lucia, Brisbane, in 1976. In 1981, with her three children at school and Norris back in PNG for a spell on the Supreme Court, she returned to her original profession. She became a senior theatre nurse of commanding resourcefulness, working mainly at Brisbane Hospital until just before her death.

Delivering the eulogy at her funeral, her brother Paul Munro—one of Peter Lalor’ s Public Solicitors’ team from 1961—repeated the comment made to him by a leading Brisbane surgeon that Joan was greatly loved and respected, having given most anaesthetists now working in Brisbane their first theatre training. Joan was a fount of caring energy all her life, interested, industrious and generous hearted.

Joan is survived by her husband Norris, sons Andrew, Steven and Dan, daughter-in-law Nicki and grandson Nicholas, and a wide circle of family and friends. Paul Munro


Louis Keller SEARLE, MC (8 September 2000, aged 87)

Louis Searle grew up southern Queensland. After school he spent some time with the family nursery, George Searle and Sons, and he maintained his interest in horticulture all his life. In 1938 he went to New Guinea to manage coconut and cocoa plantations and later moved to Pondo plantation near Rabaul. After the outbreak of WWII he came to Australia and enlisted in the AIF but was soon seconded to the ‘M’ Special Unit: the Coastwatchers. For services to his country, at the rank of Captain, Louis was awarded the Military Cross. He also received a Citation from the Commanding General of the US Marine Corps.

In 1946 he met and married Margaret Ryan in Sydney. On returning to New Guinea, Louis again managed Pondo and other plantations. Then in the early 50s the couple decided to buy their own cocoa plantation, Walindi, near Talasea. Louis and Margaret, and their two children, lived at Walindi until 1966 when a then unknown and untreatable virus attacked the cocoa crop and became too destructive for them to continue. Louis then joined the Dept of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries at Kundiawa and Margaret took on the position of Postmistress. Louis’s task was to develop new cash crops for the local population and also a wider variety of food crops. Louis’ lifelong fascination with horticulture was fed by the diversity of plant life in PNG. On the coast he was fascinated by orchids and in the Highlands by the Genus Rhododendron. He imbued everyone with his enthusiasm and formed planting parties of labourers who planted rhododendrons in public places. Louis’ son, Peter, said of him, “He loved his family, supported his friends, worked hard and enjoyed his leisure time. And in his latter years, he was still the same man.” Louis’ wife Margaret predeceased him. He is survived by his children Debby and Peter. From an obituary given by Peter Searle


Edna Mary GUNTHER (9 May 2000)

Edna was the wife of the late Dr Carl Gunther who was the Company doctor at Bulolo both before and after the war. Edna was in PNG From 1932 to 1955 except for the war years. Carl and Edna retired to Sydney where Carl worked for the Repatriation Department for some time. No further details available.


Rev Dr Frank FLYNN, MSc, AC, AO (July 2000, aged 93)

Father Flynn was a priest, medical practitioner, anthropologist, architect and author. For more than half a century he took on the dual role of priest and ophthalmologist. In late 1942, when Darwin was still under aerial attack, Fr Flynn arrived to take up the dual roles of army chaplain and ophthalmologist. He carried out a survey of eye conditions among Aborigines and then led a health program to eradicate trachoma from the Territory. In 1968 he was called to serve as a priest and medical missionary in PNG. He became the national director of Catholic Health Services of PNG, as well as administrator at the Port Moresby Cathedral. In 1977 he returned to Darwin and retired from active missionary work, but continued to serve his community as priest and medical adviser. From The Catholic Weekly, 27 August 2000


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