Farewell Graeme Acton: the bloke with infectious optimism
EVEN as the rain poured down on them, mourners took off their Akubras and held them to their hearts as cattle king Graeme Acton's coffin was carried through a sea of friends and family yesterday.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Premier Campbell Newman joined more than 3000 people to say their final farewell to the man respected by all, and loved by many.
They praised the 63-year-old father of four, and grandfather of 14, in front of a crowd of MPs, Rockhampton councillors, and a host of other community and national leaders.
The touching funeral was fittingly held at Mr Acton's beloved Paradise Lagoons, near Rockhampton.
The fourth generation Central Queensland cattleman built it for campdrafting, the rural sport that combined three of his greatest loves - horses, cattle and competition.
The arena plays host to Australia's largest campdraft annually.
"On my first trip to Paradise Lagoons he said to me, 'I think you'll be better at running a country than you are at riding a horse'," Mr Abbott said of Mr Acton during his tribute.
"The hat, the voice, the face, the walk, marked him out as almost an iconic Australian."
Mr Newman smiled as he said Mr Acton, of Acton Super Beef, had him on speed dial.
He said Mr Acton was never afraid to call if he felt something was wrong, and always had a wise solution on hand.
"In every sense of the word, Graeme Acton was a man who rode tall in the saddle," Mr Newman said. "In riding tall he saw further than others."
But it wasn't just friends and family who overflowed from the facility.
Some people had not even met the man hailed as a visionary, but knew of all he had done - for the beef industry, campdrafting, fundraising, advocating for pastoral colleges, and more.
Mr Acton's daughter, Victoria, said her father would be both proud and humbled to know how many lives he had touched.
She and her siblings, Tom, Hayley and Laura, realised from a very young age their father was "someone special".
"The year was 1950, it was the 15th of November and a baby boy was born," Tom told the mourners when he and Victoria read their father's eulogy.
"On that very day no one knew that this tiny baby was just the beginning of a remarkable, extraordinary man. This man became my father."
In that same hospital, only hours apart, Mr Acton's would-be wife, Jennie, was also born.
But it wasn't until 1970 that destiny saw fit to allow their paths to cross again.
The pair was to be married for 39 years.
Jennie had to be a very understanding wife when her husband was away for long periods of time at various sales, a close friend of Mr Acton's said during his tribute.
Peter Hughes said no man could have achieved as much as Mr Acton without the support and understanding of Jennie.
Despite his many achievements, Mr Hughes, like many, kept coming back to Mr Acton's infectious optimism.
"Whenever you had half a day with Graeme you always felt better when you left than when you came," Mr Hughes said.
"I don't know whether that happened to politicians, but it certainly happened to the rest of us in the industry."
Richard Wilson, the owner of the Keppel Bay Marina, also spoke of his great mate's positive spirit.
Mr Wilson said the date of Mr Acton's death, May 9, was the day his late father Tom was born 104 years prior.
Mr Acton received critical injuries after a fall from his horse in a campdraft northwest of Rockhampton.
In 2012 Mr Acton was made a member of the Australian Campdraft Association roll of honour, and was deputy chairman of the Stockman's Hall of Fame.
Daughter Victoria said her father's love of campdrafting would not be stopped by his passing.
"If Heaven didn't have a paradise paddock, it does now," she said.
"Nominations will be taken very soon for the very first campdraft in Heaven."