Man of Many Talents

Mum and Hank Vandepol

William and Robert were in their last years of high school, Jos, Jane and I, well on our way to becoming independent, when a family friend, whom we had not seen for a number of years, returned into our lives.

It was 1975 when Ray and I were to be married. Hank Vandepol was asked to be photographer for our wedding. Hank agreed, announcing though, his wife would not be attending because they were going through a bitter divorce.

Not long after our wedding, a romance developed between mum and Hank, he swept her off her feet, and proposed to her in relatively a very short amount of time.

Hank lived in Killarney Heights but moved into our little cottage in Welby, because his huge house in Killarney Heights needed to be sold to pay his debts and ex-wife. So it was, Hank came with litte except, his treasured four-wheel drive, his skills and his work ethic.

Hank established his business locally, “Cork Tile Service” which flourished. This provided them with a good life and the opportunity to travel overseas, including a few trips to Holland.  

Mum’s life completely changed, and Hank became our dad. Ultimately he was father to us longer than our own dad. He renovated our tiny Welby cottage, transforming it and the garden into something beautiful and magnificent. Hank was a workaholic; he couldn’t sit still for longer than five minutes.

An avid bushwalker, conservationist and photographer, Hank had explored many national parks, including his favourite near Killarney Heights, in the Kuringai Chase National Park. Photographing plants, animals, aboriginal art and the beautiful views from many of it’s vantage points.

Once in the Southern Highlands Hank explored every piece of bush that he could access, including by four-wheel drive, in order for mum to experience some of the bush as well. Remembering she had suffered polio as a child and was not at ease walking on uneven surfaces.

Hank’s passion of the Australian natural diversity and his photography was very impressive. He knew the common and botanical names of every plant we came across on all the wonderful bushwalks we did. 

But most of all, Hank enjoyed his four-wheel driving, enabling mum to also enjoy some of the bush.

Hank outlived my mother, and now has passed also, but he was disgusted with the destruction in Australia, and I am sure he would be disgusted with its continuing today. Australia has the worst record of clearing of natural forests in the world. The death of our wildlife, the disgraceful fracking and the new proposed coal mines everywhere, it appears is all OK with our politicians.

Hopefully there are thousands of people in our society with the passion and love of our Australian natural heritage, who are gutsy enough to fight the corporate bulldozers of destruction and greed. And vote differently for once in their lives, just to make changes happen, or else protest, like we did in the 60’s and 70’s.

People with the likes of Hank Vandepol, a new Australian who understood the value of our natural heritage. Hank had many boxes of slides of his beautiful photographs and attended various groups to provide talks showing his slides, creating awareness of the Australian bush and the need for conservation.

A conservationist, a photographer, a bushwalking leader, a family man with simple needs, a man who had friends also passionately fighting to preserve Australia’s beauty for our future generations.

Vincent Serventy was a friend of his. His conservation and nature books are prolific. These and others are crammed on my bookshelves, Hank’s treasure trove left in my care…. Mind you, these books were published in the mid to late 60’s and it appears no-body is paying attention.

Mum, Elly and Jane at KurKu.Ring.Gai Chase National Park
NPA Excursion 5 August 1975
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