Vale Jack Fletcher (1925-2018)

By: Ron Horner

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

It is with deep regret and a heavy heart that I inform you of the passing of one of my dearest friends, Mr Jack Fletcher OAM.

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I have chronicled an article on Jack Fletcher some time ago which outlined some of the incredible large-scale agricultural and cattle projects he headed up in the WA Kimberley and touched on his worldwide exploits during his life.

Approaching the ripe old age of 93 this year, Jack had failing health for several years but his mind and passion for the Kimberley never waned an ounce. His dream of turning the Kimberley and WA into the food bowl of Asia has been front and centre of his pastoral passion since he landed in Australia from Texas way back in the late 60’s.

After his involvement in a car accident in Perth a couple of years ago and his ongoing battle with diabetes, Jack’s movements have been limited and his health has been slowly deteriorating. Jack passed away at his home in Perth recently and was laid to rest in the west’s capital.

I was a latecomer to Jack’s very tight and loyal circle of friends and he inspired me and many others to ‘dream the dream’ with his famous sign off in his books.

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Jack Fletcher

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Jack’s famous book ‘To Dam or be Damned’ chronicles the story of ALCCO, a major agricultural development in the Fitzroy River Valley in the west Kimberley region of Western Australia, its rise to be the largest agricultural vertically integrated company in Australia, through to its demise by lack of Government support and the ensuing flooding which wiped out his dreams. Jack was a WWII hero and served with the US Armed Forces through the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific in 1945 and was honoured by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who officiated at his funeral.

The skies cleared momentarily as Jack’s friends gathered to honour and pay tribute to his life. I, along with several old workmates and friends, was given the honour of pallbearer … a truly memorable and humbling experience we will all cherish forever.

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With Jack Fletcher’s coffin draped in the US flag, the hearse and mourners marched from the Karrakatta Cemetery gates to the chapel in military fashion, led by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Australian Armed Forces bugler. 

Jack’s family was divided between the United States and Australia, with several of his family not able to make the trip to Perth for the gathering, so a video crew was engaged and streamed the funeral live from the chapel to his friends and family in the States ... ah, the wonders of modern technology!

Upon entering the chapel to the music of The Tennessee Waltz, the celebrant and Jack’s long-serving and loyal secretary Erica Hernan paid tribute with kind words and flashed photos of Jack and his family, his farming and cattle empire, and his past life across the elevated screen. It was then I realised that the man was bigger than the legend.

The guard of honour by the Veterans of Foreign Wars executed the last of the service with military precision through the folding of the flag and the presentation of it to the Fletcher family as a symbol of the utmost respect from the US military. 

With welling eyes and swollen throats, the congregation watched as the US military paid respect to a World War II hero in the only way the Yanks can. To top it off, the war veterans’ chaplain and Dave Scott, the bugler, finished off with Taps and The Last Post. It was a very moving experience.

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Hundreds of yellow roses symbolising the yellow rose of Texas were handed to the congregation who in turn showed their respects by placing them on Jack’s coffin. His famous Texan hat, spit-polished boots and family photos were placed as part of his love and lifestyle he held as a proud Texan and Aussie.

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In typical fashion, after all of what Jack Fletcher contributed to WA and the Kimberley agricultural and cattle industry, the vision he so passionately pursued to make the Kimberley what it is today and after being awarded an OAM for services to the agricultural industry in WA, not one politician turned up to show their respects. After knowing the story of Jack and ALCCO, this action would be not out of disrespect for Jack Fletcher but for sheer embarrassment for successive political parties’ failings to support his industry in past years.

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I met with Jack in late March this year and although his health was failing, his passion and dream never faltered. Here was a man who was a visionary – tough, dedicated to the cause and, even after being flogged by all sides of government, he still stood tall and continued his dream for the Kimberley and his new home of Australia.

It has been an honour to be Jack Fletcher’s friend and humbled in being invited to play an integral part in the ceremony of his life. Jack Fletcher never re-wrote the record book on anything … he was the instigator, the visionary, the leader, the dreamer, the doer.

Jack Fletcher wrote the record book and others had to follow. R.I.P mate.

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