MILITARY SEND OFF: Hundreds from across the region came to pay their respects for the passing of Biggenden icon Kevin ‘Lofty’ Wendt on February 7, 2020. Picture: Sam Turner.
MILITARY SEND OFF: Hundreds from across the region came to pay their respects for the passing of Biggenden icon Kevin ‘Lofty’ Wendt on February 7, 2020. Picture: Sam Turner.

IN PHOTOS: Region farewells Kevin ‘Lofty’ Wendt

HUNDREDS packed out the Biggenden Show Hall to celebrate the life of a man who lived and breathed the North Burnett.

Kevin "Lofty" Wendt OAM, BEM, died peacefully at his home on January 27, 2020, at the age of 76.

Throughout his life, he embodied the spirit of a man who had touched the lives of so many people around him.

 

 

Soldiers, cadets, councillors and residents from across the region descended on Biggenden to pay tribute to a man who was larger than life.

Chaplain Leo Orreal opened the ceremony, with floral tributes and symbols placed at the front of the hall, partnered with a military guard which would remain throughout the ceremony.

Lofty's daughter Leisa Dunmore began the eulogies, expressing her heartfelt gratitude to those there on February 7.

"When you all heard of Dad's failing health, the messages and tributes started to flow, pages and pages of them," Mrs Dunmore said.

"They made us laugh, they made us cry and they brought much comfort to us.

"In Dad's last hours I read aloud to him your heartfelt messages and the tributes you had written.

"Dad left this place cloaked with your love, kind words and memories."

 

The funeral of former councillor and veteran Kevin 'Lofty' Wendt in Biggenden on February 7, 2020. Picture: Sam Turner.
The funeral of former councillor and veteran Kevin 'Lofty' Wendt in Biggenden on February 7, 2020. Picture: Sam Turner.

Commonly referred to as dad, Kev, Lofty, love, pop and sir, Mrs Dunmore said fitting her father's life on four pages would be a challenge, but she was going to give it her best shot.

Mrs Dunmore recounted her father's life, outlining his early family days, his distinguished military career, his council life and the commitment he had to his family.

He helped his father, Mick, with cattle and horses growing up in the 1950s, then traded this for an army uniform in the 1960s.

"He carried a rifle and courage, serving his country in Malaya, with many of the people Dad served with in these times staying special friends," she said.

It is here he met Peter "Shorty" Haynes, who remained his best friend for his entire life.

The late 1960s saw Lofty fall in love with his first wife, Kay, welcoming Troy and Leisa into the world, and returning from the Vietnam War with a British Empire Medal (BEM).

In the '70s he wore paisley shirts, flared jeans and grew that "legendary moustache" that never left.

 

The funeral of former councillor and veteran Kevin 'Lofty' Wendt in Biggenden on February 7, 2020. Picture: Sam Turner.
The funeral of former councillor and veteran Kevin 'Lofty' Wendt in Biggenden on February 7, 2020. Picture: Sam Turner.

The 1980s saw Lofty rise to the height of his career, being awarded the Order of Australia medal, meeting the Queen and seeing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

Lofty traded in his greens for RM Williams boots and his slouch hat for an Akubra in the '90s and helped his mother Oriel off the land into town at Biggenden.

In his later years he became a grandfather, was reunited with his long-lost daughter Karen, remarried to his wife Wynsome and served in numerous community clubs.

"He then became a council pestman, school bus driver, served as a councillor for the North Burnett Regional Council and did his best to improve the lives of those around his town and his shire.

"His life was filled with beautiful girls, but in 2008 he sadly lost his mum, Oriel."

He continued to serve his community until his retirement in 2016, but still remained on committees, in consultations and was "always available for advice and a helping hand".

Lofty treasured his time with his family, his children and grandchildren, with Mrs Dunmore remembering the life lessons, the philosophies, the weirdly cooked breakfasts and the "splash of Bundy rum and coke for good measure".

"Saying goodbye is the hardest thing and the pit in our stomachs will fade with time.

"But the missing of dad, pop, Lofty, Kev, love and sir will never fade."

The famous photograph of the former Army RSM Kevin
The famous photograph of the former Army RSM Kevin "Lofty" Wendt with the Queen Mother at the changing of the guards in England in 1988. Picture: Erica Murree.

Lofty's wife, Wynsome Wendt, then began her eulogy, accompanied by Chaplain Orreal.

She spoke of her history with Lofty at an early age, their loving relationship and the joyous memories they shared together over the years.

Walking hand-in-hand, they attended social events, functions and holidayed across Australia, with Lofty giving out demerit points along the way.

"He was army through and through," Mrs Wendt said.

"'Five demerits,' he'd say."

She spoke of his lung cancer diagnosis in 2017 and the life perspective he had.

"His attitude to this being: 'These are the cards we are dealt. I could curl up and say that's me f---ed or we could give it our best shot.'

"And that's what we did."

Having loved every minute of her life as Mrs Lofty Wendt, she said farewell to the "darling Lofty", who she'll miss for the rest of her life.

Lofty's goddaughter and Shorty's daughter Tracey Beattie took the stage, reciting a poem she had written for Lofty, titled Best of Friends.

The poem spoke of the mateship that spanned more than 58 years, retelling the antics they got up to in the past and what they would be doing in the afterlife.

Moira Thompson from the Biggenden Emergency Service Cadets then took the stage.

Mrs Thompson spoke of the education, support and commitment Lofty had to the cadet program, establishing it and reviving it for the youth of the town.

Her memories of him leading the Anzac parade and teaching the cadets how to march were sights that would stay with her for the rest of her life.

 

The funeral of former councillor and veteran Kevin 'Lofty' Wendt in Biggenden on February 7, 2020. Picture: Sam Turner.
The funeral of former councillor and veteran Kevin 'Lofty' Wendt in Biggenden on February 7, 2020. Picture: Sam Turner.

She then spoke of one of her cadets, Lucas McAskill, and his close relationship with the veteran, saying his life would have had a completely different trajectory if it wasn't for him.

Councillor Robbie Radel then closed the eulogies, reading letters from Dallarnil State School and North Burnett Regional Council.

In a letter written by the principal, Andrea Kelly, she asked how you could pay tribute to a man who is "larger than life" to the students, and who played a huge part in the culture of the school for so long.

With Wyn and Lofty being proud school patrons for 15 years, Mrs Kelly remembered his time as their school bus driver, his lessons in mateship and how he modelled integrity.

In her words, "he was, and still is, as inspiring as they come".

Cr Radel then read the council's letter of tribute to Lofty, who was, in their eyes, a "quintessential Aussie bloke".

His towering height, booming voice and wealth of knowledge was something to be admired, Cr Radel said.

The funeral of former councillor and veteran Kevin 'Lofty' Wendt in Biggenden on February 7, 2020. Picture: Sam Turner.
The funeral of former councillor and veteran Kevin 'Lofty' Wendt in Biggenden on February 7, 2020. Picture: Sam Turner.

"His military display at the Anzac Day parade will always be remembered and impossible to replicate.

"His legacy will live on, we'll make sure of it.

"At ease soldier, your work here is done. Rest in peace," Cr Radel concluded.

A representative from the RAR Association then spoke of Lofty's record of service, followed by the funeral service and the procession to the Degilbo cemetery to the traditional marching tune of Black Bear.

The full military funeral service concluded proceedings, with words said by Chaplain Orreal and shots being fired to remember this soldier, father, councillor and friend.


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