Couple devoted to family, community

THEIRS is one of the best-known family names in Hervey Bay and their contribution to the town and the community is well recognised by many local residents.

Russell and Una Peaker (nee Chapman) were long-time residents of Hervey Bay, who settled in the Bay as a young family and made it their home for 70 years.

Their devotion, and contribution, to the area are undeniable, from setting up a successful business serving the community to involvement with the Baptist Church and Pialba primary school.

Russell, who died in 2005, and Una, who died in September last year, met through the Baptist Church where Una prayed for Russell as an Aboriginal Inland Mission missionary.

They married in 1944.

Russell was the second child of Walter and Clara Peaker. Walter, who spent much of his childhood in Canada, was a boot-maker.

Russell was born in Toowoomba in 1912 and was followed by Olive, Isobel, Bob, Ivy and Joyce.

His family spent the early days around Dalby, farming. They often moved around and spent time in Kingaroy, the Blue Mountains, Mt Druitt and Toowoomba.

Russell continued to travel and work on farms with his brother Bob.

As a 16-year-old he attended three days of special meetings with a visiting speaker from Sydney and described the night when he found his faith as “the big night of (his) life”.

Russell was interested in Aborigines from an early age and went to help the missionaries at Cherbourg with the Christian Endeavour Outreach in the 1930s.

Russell joined the army in 1942 and was a Corporal in the Australian Infantry Forces when he and Una married.

Una, who was born in Sydney in 1914, was the eldest of eight children and is survived by her sisters Laura and Ruth and brother Jack.

As the eldest, and 16 years older than Ruth, the youngest child, she was a great help to her mother.

Her father was the Captain’s Steward and spent most of his working life on the sea on boats sailing to Townsville and Papua New Guinea.

The Chapman family lived in Brisbane, where Una did her schooling. As a child, after the evening meal and the dishes, she spent hours diligently doing her homework and had excellent mapping books.

She went to the Central Technical College, now QUT Gardens Point university campus near Parliament House, for three years, studying commercial studies.

Una worked as the secretary to the manager of Webster’s Bakeries. She also worked in the claims department of John Burke Shipping Company.

The first Sunday school she attended was at the Baptist Tabernacle. She attended youth group at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church.

It was Una’s and Russell’s mutual faith that brought them together when she prayed for him while he was working as a missionary.

Following their wedding, Russell and Una had five children; Jeanette, in 1945, followed by David, Gordon, Colin and Allen.

Russell’s love of mechanics and cars resulted in his working at McKinnon Motors Dutton Park when the young family (following the births of Jeanette and David) lived with Una’s parents. He worked there for two years and gained his A-grade mechanics certificate in 1947.

In 1948, he bought two blocks of land between Beach Road and Newhaven Street for 100 pounds. Una’s parents paid their 50 pounds for the Newhaven Street block while Russell and Una built on the Beach Road block after the war. They lived in that home most of their lives.

Russell and Bob also bought land on the corner of Old Maryborough Road and Main Street to run their mechanical workshop and service station where AutoBarn is today. It became, and still is to many local residents, known as Peakers Corner.

As part of the school committee, Russell helped build the primary school oval using Bert Churchwood’s Ferguson tractor, as well as building playground equipment.

Una, despite a busy family life, was also ready to serve others. She helped cook for the Pialba State School tuckshop and Hervey Bay High canteen for many years and made good friends with other regulars.

She held the position of church secretary and treasurer for many years, taught Sunday school for more than 70 years and taught many women how to crochet at craft class. Una was the last surviving foundation member of the Hervey Bay Baptist Church.

Russell always had a love of aeroplanes and the dream of flying finally came to fruition when he earned his pilot’s licence when he was 52. He often flew over to Fraser Island to do mechanical repairs on customers’ vehicles and drop off bread at the Sandy Cape lighthouse. Older Hervey Bay residents may remember the J3 Piper Cub that he and Bob flew around the Bay for many years.

Russell and Una’s children and grandchildren remember not just the important contribution made by them to Hervey Bay as an emerging town and then city, but also the warmth they spread throughout their family, of whom they were very proud.

They were both highly respected and highly treasured within family and the wider church and community circle.

Grand-daughter Kerryn Colen, speaking about Una, reflects that she lived for her family and her faith. Each of her 16 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren felt her kindness and love.

Her home was always open and welcoming and no family member can remember her ever “losing her cool”.

“She demonstrated her love to all of us so completely and consistently.”

Russell also will be remembered for his warmth and kindness.

Kerryn reflects: “When you’re 93, you’ve had five siblings, one marriage, five children, 16 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, you can bet life gets complex at times. And yet Grandpa faced any challenge or disappointment with a measure of grace most of us only aspire to.”

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