Many in Bellingen community knew Bill Blakeway, who has died aged 102 years.
Many in Bellingen community knew Bill Blakeway, who has died aged 102 years. Ute Schulenberg

Truly a gentleman

BELLINGEN may have lost one of its oldest residents but the happy spirit of Bill Blakeway lives on.

One hundred and two years young, Bill died only days after he and his wife, Tops, celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary in September.

Remembered by many for his gentlemanly ways and compassionate, caring nature, Bill was also well known for his love and curiosity of all things mechanical.

His skills found many different outlets in the community, including owning the old garage in Church St (now Bellingen Solar), providing a mobile welder and repair service for Bellingen Shire Council, and founding Bellingen Auto Electrical, still operating today on Hyde St.

BMW Hydraulics was another business venture, which saw him team up with Jim Maze and Toby Williams to develop a hydraulic system for radial arm bench saws.

Other passions outside his shed included sailing, and as president of the Australian National Rainbow Council he organised the national championships for the little boats off Muttonbird Island in 1971/72.

Joining Rotary in the 1970s was another way Bill served others. His active service eventually earned him Rotary's highest honour, the Paul Harris Fellowship.

As one friend said: "There are only three ways to do things in life - the right way, the wrong way and the Blakeway."

Most importantly, the 'Blakeway' was guided by Bill's love for his wife, Tops, who he met in 1940 while stranded on the Dorrigo Plateau awaiting spare parts to repair a milking machine. He serenaded her with love songs to the end, saying that meeting her was the best moment of his long life.

Bill is survived by his wife, his four children, seven grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.