ROCKHAMPTON vet Dr Alister Rodgers was well respected in the community. He lost his fight against Hendra virus on September 1.
Alister Graeme Rodgers (“The No Nonsense Vet”) was born 13th May 1954 in Brisbane; the second son of John Alexander Courtney Rodgers and Olga Joan Rodgers of Springvale near Jericho. Brother to John and later to David.
Alister learnt to handle challenges from an early age. Our mother used to relay the story about how worried they were about Alister because he used to cry every time they put him in his play pen and how it turned out they had put his play pen on a green ants nest.
Whilst at Springvale Alister commenced his schooling by correspondence.
The family moved to Ashgrove on the western side of Barcaldine in 1962 where we grew up as a very close nit family with our cousins Steve, Judy and Lyndal.
Alister completed his primary schooling at the Barcaldine State School and secondary schooling at The Southport School which he attended as a boarder from 1968 to 1972.
Whilst at TSS Alister accomplished many athletic achievments both in track events and rowing including breaking a number of records. Even with a broken leg, he ran the last 400m of a 3000m race with what proved to be a stress fracture of his leg. This was the sort of staminer and dedication Alister put into everything he did.
A topic in my recent conversations with Alister was his desire to get back into long distance running and also to get back on the water.
In his final year at Southport he was made a Prefect and awarded the school colours/blazer, a very prestigious award at that time.
I remember as a child discussing future career paths with Alister. The main focus was on occupations that would serve to assist our parents on the family property.
Based on that desire and a strong affinity with animals he chose to study Veterinary Science and gained entry to the University of Queensland. In his initial years at University he resided at St Johns college, later moving into flats in Toowong and Indooroopilly. Alisters time at both UQ and Johns was very dear to him and pathed the way for a number of life-long friendships.
After graduating in 1978 Alister gained employment with Russell Duigan at the Laidley Vet Clinic in the Lockyer valley.
It was always obvious to me that Alister would not be content with working for other people and he soon started looking at getting his own practice. He identified the need for a vet in Cloncurry, in north-west Queensland, the home town of his close friend David Lemon.
I have very fond memories of the preparation for and sharing the first trip to Cloncurry with Alister to set up his new practice. At that time the roads were not as they are today and four-wheel-drives not as advanced. So we set off in his XB Falcon station wagon loaded up with gear, negotiated bull dust filled, rock hiding, pot holes that seemed to swallow the whole front of the car between Winton and McKinlay, eventually arriving at the Wagon Wheel Hotel where we got the keys to a vacant room on the eastern side of the Hotel next to the lawn bowls club.
That was to become Alister's first vet clinic. This clinic was later replaced by his own purpose-built premises adjacent to the highway leading into Cloncurry. Alister was extremely proud of both the clinic building and the rental units he built alongside it.
Alisters time in the north-west was very much frontier work. He was heavily involved in the tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication programs, carrying out testing over the whole north-western region of Queensland and into the Northern Territory. He relayed many stories to me about this work such as finishing a job just on dark near Normanton and being ready to start another not long after daylight near Boulia. Anyone who is familiar with the region will immediately realise the significance of this sort of dedication to work, especially when travelled in a two-wheel-drive Falcon ute on very poor quality dirt roads.
Another story that comes to mind is of a beast rushing up the crush while Alister was in the process of bleeding the beast in front, causing him to slice open the palm of his hand with the scalpel. Not to be deterred, he went and sat on the tailgate of his ute, applied some local anaesthetic and proceeded to stitch the wound, return to the yards and continue with the bleeding.
The Falcon utes were not up to the job, suffering many stress fractures from the large distances travelled on very poor roads. Alister realised that something had to give, which led him to obtain his pilot's licence and purchase his first plane, a Cessna 172. He soon became known as “The Flying Vet”.
Alister loved flying. The first Cessna was soon upgraded to a Cessna 182 and his involvement in aviation expanded to include a twin-engine Cessna 210 which he leased to Mac Air. Many hours were spent on creating and maintaining airstrips at both Ashgrove and Moonya for Alister's visits to the family properties.
In 1987 I received an invitation to the Cloncurry Bachelor and Spinsters ball so my now wife, Wendy and I felt obliged to attend. During the course of the evening Alister introduced us to a particular nurse named Linda Painter. “Smart girl that one,” he said to me.
In 1989 Wendy and I and the rest of our family received another invitation, this time to a wedding as that “smart girl” was to become Alister's wife and later the mother of their two children, Courtney, born in 1990 and Duncan born in 1994. They were the apples of Alister's eye.
Never content with his skill levels, Alister undertook postgraduate study and completed a masters in Veterinary Studies in Beef Cattle Production in 1996.
In 1998, with a view to expand his business and provide a more suitable environment for his children to grow up in, Alister sold his practice in Cloncurry and the family moved to Rockhampton in 1999 where he purchased the Rockhampton Veterinary Practice.
Once again applying his unmatched stamina and dedication to this business, he purchased more suitable premises, made extensive purpose-designed extensions and grew the practice to the thriving business it is today.
In addition to the main practice premises, he recently completed construction of his most recent pride and joy: a state-of-the-art, purpose-built equine complex at Gracemere.
When talking to people that know Alister certain words come up time after time to describe him. Words like:
- Dedication – he was totally dedicated to his work and family.
- Staminer – Alister was a tireless worker – When I commented to a nurse in ICU about Alister never smoking or drinking to excess and being in such good shape the nurse asked, “What was his vice?” The only response I could come up with was his work.
- Righteous – Alister held very strong beliefs and exhibited a Steadfast adherence to a strict moral and ethical codes.
- Proud – Alister was always extremely proud of his family and his achievements but they were never enough, continually striving to achieve higher levels.
- Immortal – Alister always looked after himself and his body and deserved to live far longer than the 55 years granted to him. I believe had it not been for this tragic event Alister would have forgotten to retire and would have continued to work into his late 70’s.
Our thoughts and prayers at this time are also with others who have been affected by the Hendra virus. We can only hope that through our losses some benefit may be obtained in finding a prevention or cure for this most aggressive and deadly virus.
- The family invites people to make donations to The Alister Rodgers Memorial Trust Fund, set up by the University of Queensland in conjunction with the Australian Veterinary Assocation to assist with funding Hendra virus research.
The development of a vaccine will take considerable time. In the shorter term I urge horse owners to take action to discourage flying foxes from roosting where they can urinate and defecate onto feed and water containers, and for vets to take all precautions to avoid becoming another Hendra victim.
We would like to thank the vast numbers of people who have provided support in one form or another throughout this most tragic time. There are too many to mention individually but we would like to make special mention of the doctors and staff at both the Rockhampton Base Hospital and the Intensive Care Unit at the PA Hospital and Alister's staff at the Rockhampton Veterinary Clinic.
The support has been absolutely terrific under very difficult circumstances."
- Leave your messages for the Rodgers family as a comment, below.