Ken lived life to the full

A Service of Thanksgiving for the 94 years of life of Kelvin Athol (Ken) Barnier at St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Grafton.
A Service of Thanksgiving for the 94 years of life of Kelvin Athol (Ken) Barnier at St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Grafton. Debrah Novak

WHAT a life and what a fitting send-off for the man who lived it.

About 250 people packed into and outside of St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Grafton, yesterday to farewell Kelvin Athol "Ken" Barnier.

The 94-year-old Second World War veteran packed more life into his allotted span than most would expect from 10 men.

Ken's eldest son, Neville, told the congregation of a hard-working, loving and gentle man, but one who was prepared to go off to war when duty called in the 1940s.

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.

From 1942 to 1944 he served in the Middle East and New Guinea campaigns in the same unit - the 2nd/5th Field Regiment - as Vic- toria Cross winner and former NSW Governor Sir Roden Cutler.

Neville told how his father married Kathleen, who he met while he was a drummer in a music trio playing the dance halls in the Copmanhurst region before the war.

He was home on injury leave from New Guinea and wed his wife of 69 years in Christ Church Cathedral before heading back to New Guinea.

Neville said his father's war stories were always a hit with the children, although he realised later in life they always told the funny side of his experiences and shielded them from the horrors

After the war Ken settled back into civilian life with Kathleen, settling 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 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.

Although he became involved in these organisations through his children, he and Kathleen threw themselves wholeheartedly into them and after filling executive roles for many years, all these bodies rewarded Ken with life memberships.

Neville said his Dad never forgot about his time in the army and said Anzac Day was always special to him. He recalled his final Anzac Day this year had been particularly memorable and how much he enjoyed the coverage in The Daily Examiner.

"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," he said.

Neville paid tribute to his father's carers in his final years.

Topics:  copmanhurst funeral grafton

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