A devout family man who always had the community’s best interests at heart.
That’s how long-time Berrigan Shire councillor Bernard Curtin OAM will be remembered.
Bernard sadly passed away last Wednesday evening surrounded by his family. He was 80 years old.
After moving to Berrigan in 1968, Bernard dedicated much of his time to family, rural health issues, business, sport and politics.
Behind his achievements as a community man was his loving wife Mary and their seven children — Gabrielle, Peter, Louise, Michael, Marianne, John and Loretta — and later their 16 grandchildren.
Many local residents will fondly recall his time at the Berrigan Newsagency which he owned from 1968 until 2002.
Daughter Marianne said her father’s time as the local newsagent helped show the community his friendly and likeable nature.
‘‘The newsagency became a meeting place for many people,’’ she said.
‘‘A lot of people would go there for advice and for a chat.
‘‘He loved working there and people always enjoyed his good nature when they went in to buy the paper.’’
Bernard was elected to Berrigan Shire Council in 2004 and served as Mayor from 2012 until 2016.
Berrigan Shire general manager and close friend Rowan Perkins said Bernard’s passion for the community was always evident in his work.
‘‘Bernard was a great friend and colleague. He was somebody you could have a debate with and still work with professionally.
‘‘I thought he was a great mayor; passionate, articulate and always on the front foot with council and community issues.’’
Bernard was passionate about the Berrigan Shire and in 2016 successfully lobbied the NSW government to ensure the council wasn’t amalgamated like many other rural councils.
Mr Perkins said Bernard’s biggest passion for the shire was to ensure the community had access to the health system.
‘‘One thing that stood out was how he was a strong advocate for health in the region,’’ he said.
‘‘He would have been very proud recently to see the My Health record launch in Berrigan and the success of Amaroo (Aged Care).
‘‘I know he was very proud of the new Berrigan hospital and the expanding health services in Finley and Tocumwal.’’
Bernard had a distinguished local health career, serving on numerous boards and committees including 22 years on the board of the Berrigan War Memorial Hospital (1973-1993), chair of the Local Advisory Health Board (1993-1996) and chairman of Amaroo Aged Care Units (1992-2011).
Marianne said without her father’s determination, Berrigan wouldn’t have a hospital.
A lot of Bernard’s passion for better rural health came from his own personal experience with Myeloma. Although the diagnosis surfaced in 2004, Marianne said her father’s constant fighting was inspirational.
‘‘There were many times when we thought we might lose him but Dad pulled through.
‘‘He wasn’t going to let the illness hold him back, he had too much to do for the community.
‘‘He made good relationships with his doctors in Albury and they always remarked how strong he was.’’
In 2015, Bernard was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.
In an interview at the time with the Southern Riverina News, he said he was ‘‘quite humbled’’ to be awarded such an accolade.
‘‘Whatever I have achieved in Berrigan has only been because of the tremendous support of people I’ve worked with, and those people need to be recognised,’’ he said at the time.
‘‘I’ve worked with so many people in the church, health and sporting areas and have had a lot of support from wonderful people. Without them none of this would have been achieved.’’
One of Bernard’s big passions was football and he regularly attended Berrigan Saints games and was an avid Geelong Cats fan.
He became a member of the Saints in 1979 and served as a selector and president.
He was also a member of the Murray League tribunal for eight years.
Bernard was a director of the Berrigan Golf and Bowls Club from 1983 until 1986 and 1996 to 1999.
He built close personal friendships with people across all levels of government even before he became a councillor, as was pointed out by former Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Farrer Tim Fischer who contacted the Southern Riverina News on Friday to pay tribute to his old friend.
‘‘Bernie Curtin was the ultimate networker, capable and genial but also in so many ways brave and generous.
‘‘My nickname for Mayor Curtin was the ‘Other Pope’; we will all greatly miss him and I extend my sympathy to the Clan Curtin, indeed to the Berrigan Shire and related region,’’ Mr Fischer said.
Berrigan Shire Mayor Matt Hannan also paid tribute to his predecessor.
‘‘Bernard has been a great member and servant of the Berrigan community. He was a wealth of knowledge of the history of the area and was a champion of health.
‘‘We had a friendly relationship over the 10 years I knew him; it wasn’t in Bernard’s nature to not get along with someone,’’ Cr Hannan said.
Family and friends across the region will have their opportunity to say their goodbyes at a funeral service this Friday at 1pm at St Columba’s Catholic Church in Berrigan.