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Death of Henry Bodman – educator, Rotarian & entrepeneur


HENRY MacDonald Bodman, who died in Brisbane yesterday afternoon aged 77, began his career as a school teacher in Papua New Guinea and, upon returning to Australia after independence, emerged as a successful entrepreneur.

He was one of the ‘old men’ (at 23) and leaders of the 1962 intake at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) and, after arriving in PNG in late 1963, spent the next year teaching at Tavui Primary T School, near the submarine base in Rabaul.

This began a distinguished career in PNG education including three years as headmaster at Kabagap near Kokopo and five years in the high pressure position of headmaster of Hohola Demonstration School in Port Moresby.

During this period Henry was also a member of the curriculum development committee, chairman of the Port Moresby Primary Schools Sports Association and a charter member of the national executive of the PNG Teachers Association.

From 1973-75 he was assistant director (localisation) in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.

“I wouldn’t have missed any of these experiences,” he was to recall later, “but Kabagap was a nose in front.”

He returned to PNG many times, particularly during his period as Rotary district governor of a region encompassing south-east Queensland, PNG and the Solomons.

Upon leaving PNG in 1975, Henry established a successful refrigerated warehousing and transport business in Queensland before, in the late 1980s, moving into wholesaling and retailing fruit and vegetables.

They were tough industries to be in but Henry was a tough character and he was also to apply his strength and organisational abilities to his activities in Rotary, an organisation to which he gave much and with great effect.

One of the highlights of his PNG years was his voluntary role as inaugural president of the PNG Australian National Football Council based in Rabaul. He also became president of the Port Moresby Australian Rules Club and had a playing career which saw him represent PNG in Cairns, Mt Isa, Alice Springs, the Gold Coast and Darwin.

Upon completing a degree course at the University of Papua New Guinea, he claimed he had embarked on it “to stop teachers’ college lecturers suggesting anyone without one couldn't speak the real language of education”. That was vintage Bodman.

As his long time professional and Rotary colleague Murray Bladwell wrote to me overnight: "Henry will be remembered by his mates for his well known and constant challenge to the world... I'm Henry Bodman and I don't care who knows it!"

Henry said of his period at ASOPA in 1962-63: “As the best paid cadets in Australia, domiciled in the Mosman-Middle Head areas of Sydney in the early sixties, full of what makes young bulls young bulls, and an intriguing mix of personalities with the eventual challenge of PNG teaching - can anyone find a time in recorded history where Heaven came as close to Earth - and was available to peasants such as us?”

Henry resolutely battled multiple myeloma for seven years; as Murray Bladwell said, "participating in life, as he always did, to the fullest, no holds barred."

He is survived by Janelle (who he married while at ASOPA) and children Simone, Kent, Marcelle and Drew.

Funeral details are yet to be announced.


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Colleen Sutherland

So sorry to hear of the death of your husband Janelle, my condolences to you and to your children. I have such pleasant memories of our times at the flat at Spit Junction, and those boys next door, and the fun we had. If I remember correctly we were throwing frozen peas at them from the balcony above, and that's how we all became friends. A place in the flat became available, and Henry's girl turned up ! The kitchen was transformed and even the teapot was cleaned. Passed with flying colours, and Janelle was our new flat mate ! I have thought of you often over the years and always meant to visit......" next time I go to Queensland." You and Henry were "larger than life "kind of characters, and your smiling faces are etched in my mind's eye. How sad for all of us that he is no longer here. R.I.P. Henry Bodman.

Les Lyons

Rather belatedly our condolences to Janelle and family
Unfortunately we found out only yesterday that Henry had left us permanently which was quite devastating
Having been a close mate during the heady days at ASOPA and best man at Henry & Janelle’s wedding with later intermittent catch-ups it was with deep remorse to hear of his passing but delightful to read the wonderful response from Keith and the engaging commentary from Dick Jones as well as many of Henry’s friends and admirers in every walk of life and across country boundaries
A great man, a long-time friend, a dedicated correspondent—he never missed sending birthday and Christmas greetings and snippets of information; a tough competitor both on and off the sporting field and a wonderful example to all both during his teaching career and later in his successful business pursuits and as a dedicated Rotarian
Henry was a leader in every sense of the word and someone to be proud to have known and to have been associated with
One can only marvel at his untiring resilience and the tremendous bond he established with everyone
Henry we’ll miss you; your legacy is very deep and powerful and will be remembered
May you rest in peace and we’ll catch up again in higher places
Les & Margaret Lyons Perth WA 12.10.16

Memafu Kapera

Keith - Thanks for the update. A tall Australian I knew as my headmaster in the 1960's at Hohola Dem School. My condolences to his immediate family.

Neil Harvey

As a member of the group of ASOPA Cadet Education Officers who started after the 1962-1963 cohort, I found them en masse, but Henry, in particular, a somewhat forthright but nevertheless friendly man. This was confirmed when we both taught in and around Rabaul over the following years.

Like many others, I have no trouble remembering Henry's passion for Aussie Rules (a little 'dust up' with Ivan Peterson on Rabaul's QE2 oval comes to mind).

Over the last few years, I greatly enjoyed corresponding with the big man both by email and snail mail, as would have many others who received his annual letters.

The 1963-1964 cohort, unlike Henry and his colleagues, took 50 years to have a reunion. His help is getting things off the ground were much appreciated.

But that was the nature of the man, wasn't it?

Paul & Margaret Brigg

Knew Henry since 1964 when both at Tavui schools behind Rabaul. So a long and interesting friendship between his family and ours. Sad that he did not have an extra few years to enjoy the social life he revelled in.

Peter Lewis

Sad day. Henry was a friend to everyone. May his soul rest in peace. My deepest sympathy to Janelle and family.

Gordon Shirley

I knew Henry a little and was at Vunamami in 1966 when he and the other expats playing Aussie Rules had a brawl amongst themselves.

Their wives sitting on the sideline were not impressed, nor was Frank Boison the CEO of education on the Gazelle at that time.

Henry was one of the leading Expat educators around Rabaul at that time. I learnt quite a bit form him. Another old expat educator is seriously ill. Don Williams is very ill in Townsville.

Diane Bohlen

Sad news indeed. I remember Henry from ASOPA as being one of our leaders, he was a natural.

More recently I met him at Rotary functions and worked closely with him when we organised the Brisbane ASOPA reunion.

I especially remember the fabulous seafood lunches he provided during our meetings. He enjoyed organising and was so good at it. He was friendly and helpful to so many people in his life.

RIP Henry, sympathy to his family.

Richard Jones

It is indeed a sad day as Ed, Daniel, Andrea and William have mentioned.

From the old 1962-63 ASOPA days and our little pad at Spit Junction there's only Les Lyons and I left.

Dubbo Dave Kesby and now Henry have been summoned to appear in front of the great full-forward in the sky. From the original quartet there's just the pair of us remaining.

Like Bob, Henry and I often clashed but mainly about political issues -- he from the Right and me from the Left.
And he wasn't best pleased I called it a day with the Port Moresby Aussie Rules club (we wore the old South Melbourne strip of white with a red V) to take up the pen at the Post Courier.

There to write rugby league for the mighty return of 3 cents (3 toea, maybe?) per line. Compared with zero toea at the Aussie Rules club.

Henry was a tireless worker for the spread of Aussie Rules in PNG as Keith has pointed out and had little time for rugby league. Or rugby union, for that matter.

Called them the "bum-sniffing codes" Ah, well. League became PNG's national code yet Henry continued to push the cause of Australian Rules.

I seem to remember one of Henry and Janelle's 2 sons was named Kent. Simone and Marcelle are certainly correct names for his daughters.

He was definitely born in 1938, a birth date he continued to assert was my actual date, as well.

No matter that I had a birth certificate, several passports and other assorted travel documents with "1940" firmly linked in.

He loved a bit of a stir, did our old mate, Hen.

Dick Arnold

Such very sad news. However Henry would want us to remember the good times. We have lost a superb human being - friend, mentor, educator and a true raconteur. Henry gave 110% to his many endeavours. Our thoughts are with Janelle and the family.

Bob Cleland

Henry and I had many years in PNG in common though our paths never crossed.

When I met him within Rotary we clicked immediately. Though in different clubs, we'd often meet, and sometimes clashed(!).

I'm saddened to lose a good friend.

Warm commiserations to Janelle and family.

William Welbourne

What a great mate we Asopans have lost. He did us proud. Many fond memories we have shared... Vale Henry.

Andrea Williams

I'm saddened to hear about Henry. What a special man - one who lived life to the fullest with a smile on his face and a heart of gold.

Whilst editing Una Voce, I relished his humorous contributions and will miss him enormously. He certainly lifted the day for those he was in touch with.

His contribution to PNG was vast and I can only hope will be remembered. Special thoughts to Janelle and to the family.

Ed Brumby

You've summed Henry up extraordinarily well, Keith. I've met few others who had his stature, presence, integrity and, as you said, toughness.

Universally admired and respected, he was the best of head teachers, demanding from his staff and colleagues the same dedication and professionalism that marked his own service in the education of Papua New Guinean children.

My own life has been the richer for having known and worked closely with him. The world needs many more exemplary citizens like Henry.

Daniel Kumbon

May this great man's soul rest in eternal peace.

He is among those first pioneering Australians who came to teach backward 'peasant children such as us.'

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