Bevan Whitaker next to one of his planes.
Bevan Whitaker next to one of his planes. Contributed

'He lived a triumphant life': Family honours M'boro pioneer

HE WAS a pioneer in regional aviation, one of the cornerstones of the Heritage City's business community and an honorary member of the Portside Precinct's Walk of Achievers.

Bevan Royle Whitaker died on October 14, aged 90.

He is survived by his children Paul, Cathy and Tony, grandchildren Claire, Luke, Brenton, Lochlan and Callum and great-grandchildren Cameron and Jaxon.

Cathy told the Chronicle she'd always remember him as a down to earth gentleman and loving father whose heart was always in Maryborough.

A long-term Maryborough local, Bevan's journey to become one of the founding fathers of regional aviation started with him driving taxis between Hervey Bay and Maryborough after leaving school aged 13.

After branching out his repair business selling harvesters, trucks and cars, he turned his attention to the aviation industry in the 1970s.

In addition to founding three of his own airlines, he aided Careflight and provided Air Ambulance services in Victoria, NSW and South Australia.

Sunstate Airlines, one of the companies he built from the ground up, would go on to form the bedrock for regional airline QantasLink.

 

LIFE WELL LIVED: A celebration of life will be held on Wednesday for Maryborough aviation pioneer and businessman Bevan Royle Whitaker.
LIFE WELL LIVED: A celebration of life will be held on Wednesday for Maryborough aviation pioneer and businessman, Bevan Royle Whitaker. Contributed

Mr Whitaker also bought Great Keppel and Lady Elliot Islands, the latter he would own for more than three decades.

Cathy spoke fondly of the numerous trips the pair would take out to the eco-paradise.

"There was nothing on that island when we arrived, all the vegetation had been eaten by the goats and it was all flat," Ms Whitaker said.

"He went about re-vegetating and building everything on there ... he'd fly us over there, we'd snorkel.

"He really loved Fraser Island, we were there nearly every weekend, before there were vehicles and barges.

"We'd go in and visit Central Station, they had their logging camp there and we'd drive up the creek in Dad's army truck to see all the huts."

Her father's love for aviation and tourism was only matched by his dedication to Maryborough, with Cathy describing his love for the city and its people. "I remember a young lad he took off the street, he was 13 years old and living on the streets," Cathy said.

"Dad said 'You know what? I like this kid, you can start by sweeping floors'.

"That kid today ... he went on to become one of the best aircraft engineers in Australia.

"There was another man in Bundaberg that worked for him, he and his wife had lost two of their children and had so much debt the bank was foreclosing on them.

"Dad went to the bank and paid out their entire debt in full, got the deed, came back to the office, called the gentleman and asked him to come in.

"Dad just pushed the papers across to him and said: 'There's the deed to your house, I don't want you to ever have to worry again."

 

Pictured with daughter, Cathy Whitaker.
Pictured with daughter, Cathy Whitaker. Contributed

Later in life Mr Whitaker always cherished and adored his extended family to the point he was in their lives almost "every single day".

"He had them on the phone, he kept track of everything they were doing in his diary," Cathy said

"He was a man of steel: he had six heart attacks, four strokes, a broken hip and wrist, was diabetic and survived open heart surgery.

"He lived a triumphant life, a life well-lived."

A celebration of Bevan Whitaker's life will be held at St Paul's Anglican Church in Maryborough on Wednesday at 1pm.