Grafton loses one of its finest sons

Clarence Valley war veteran Ken Barnier gets a kiss from his wife of 69 years, Kathleen, earlier this year. Ken died on Monday morning.
Clarence Valley war veteran Ken Barnier gets a kiss from his wife of 69 years, Kathleen, earlier this year. Ken died on Monday morning. Debrah Novak

THE CLARENCE Valley has lost another one of its heroes this week with the death of 94-year-old Second World War veteran Kelvin "Ken" Barnier.

Ken died early Monday morning at Livingstone House, Grafton, from heart complications, ending an amazing story almost a century in the writing.

Ken grew up on a farm on the banks of the Clarence River in the 1920s near Copmanhurst. Through this peaceful, simpler upbringing, Ken developed a love of the land and also a deep affinity for horses.

Inspired by stories of the Australian Light Horse's role in the First World War, Ken - then aged 17 - joined the 15th Light Horse Regiment AIF in 1935 with his faithful mare Old Gray.

Despite Ken excelling during his training for the light horse, his unit became mechanised shortly after Australia entered the Second World War in 1939, becoming the 15th Motor Regiment, which meant he quickly had to learn a new set of skills before being deployed.

During the war, Ken was involved in military campaigns in the Middle East and New Guinea and was highly decorated for his efforts during his five years of service.

After the war Ken settled back into civilian life with his wife Kathleen who he met during a stint drumming for the Copmanhurst dance band before the war.

The couple settled on a farm at Whiteman Creek where they raised their family and have lived ever since.

Ken's experience driving trucks during the war carried over into civilian life where he held jobs as a goods carrier, a bus driver and a truck driver for Big River Timbers.

He also continued to work his land and was still ploughing fields on his tractor at age 92.

Ken's daughter Bettye Peters said her father was very community minded and was heavily involved in the Copmanhurst Rural Fire Service, The Copmanhurst Hall Committee, the Grafton Marching Girls Association and the Grafton District Services Motorcycle Club.

Ms Peters said her father would be remembered as a gentle, hard-working man who was utterly devoted to his family.

"He was very community minded but it was his family that made him happy - the kids," she said.

Ken never forgot about his time in the army and said Anzac Day was always special to him. His final Anzac Day this year had been particularly memorable, Ms Peters said.

"Anzac Day was just wonderful, everybody looked after him, he had the headlines in the local newspaper and had a really lovely day. A few days later he went to Copmanhurst which was virtually his home town and laid a wreath on behalf of the hall committee and that was special to him," she said.

Ken will be farewelled at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Grafton, this Friday from 1.30pm.

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