Neville Hewitt lived life to its fullest
WHETHER it was at the races, over a beer at the pub or just on the street, Neville Hewitt was always ready to talk to the people he represented.
Often, as he enjoyed a beer or two in Rockhampton pubs, he would also talk to those who weren't in his electorate but knew they could rely on him to get the job done.
It was this dedication to the public, not his own political career, his family believe was one of his proudest achievements.
The politician, war hero, amateur jokey and stockman was yesterday remembered by his family as a hard-working man who lived life to its fullest after dying on Tuesday, aged 95.
The eldest of six children, Neville was born on a kitchen table on a Theodore cattle property in 1920.
He started his education at Theodore State School in 1926, finishing at Rockhampton Grammar School from 1934 to 1936 after a stint of distance education.
Neville served with the airforce during the Second World War, but remained reluctant to talk about his experiences despite being one of only two airmen awarded both the Military Medal and Air Force Medal.
He was lucky to survive several days in no-man's-land with two badly injured legs, including a broken ankle, after his crew was shot down over Tunisia.
Despite widely-publicised theories his bravery medals were earned by destroying secret equipment, Neville's son Ian said he was simply looking out for a mate.
As a tail gunner, Neville should have been one of the last off the plane.
But seeing the pilot still on the failing aircraft without a parachute, Neville stayed aboard to find one.
After the war, Neville returned to Central Queensland where he worked as a stockman in Theodore before moving to Eidsvold.
Despite facing the constituents of a blue ribbon Labor seat stretching from Sarina to Cracow, Neville won Mackenzie in 1956 for the then Country Party.
He would frequently cross the vast electorate with a trusted former Spitfire pilot in a single engine aircraft.
Neville would go on to serve as an MP, and later a cabinet minister, until his retirement from politics in 1980.
During his tenure as the longest serving Minister for Water Resources nearly all Queensland's major dams and weirs were built.
This long-term vision on water storage, as well as his involvement with the Brigalow Land Development Scheme, has formed a large part of his political legacy and, were achievements his children said he felt a lot of pride for.
After 24 years in State Parliament, Neville returned to the land, managing cattle properties in Central Queensland.
He had a passion for horses and was still riding and mustering cattle on horseback well into his 80s.
But this passion wasn't confined to the paddock.
AS a successful amateur jockey, Neville rode about 300 winners and was a mainstay at the Rockhampton Jockey Club, acting as chairman for six years after his political retirement.
During this time, he successfully lobbied the Queensland Government for turf at Callaghan Park, adding to his list of proud achievements.
Neville's memory never wavered and his children yesterday recalled he could probably still have listed all the number plates he saw at the Eidsvold Show if asked.
Until just months ago, Neville's daily routine would include a couple of beers and a good look at the form guide.
His children said once macular degeneration impeded his sight so much he couldn't watch the races or place a bet with the form guide, he slowly declined.
Former Rockhampton MP and close friend Robert Schwarten said Neville was a "true gentleman".
"The old political divide they talk about does not divide decent people," he said.
"He was as straight as a gun barrel.
"Respected on both sides of the house, he was a true gentleman and a very sad loss to society."
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry also paid tribute to the man who she said "played a pivotal role" in Queensland Government.
She said naming Rockhampton's second bridge after Neville showed how highly he was regarded in the community.