The Queensland Times - - FRONT PAGE - AN­DREW KORNER an­drew.korner@qt.com.au

FOR the many who knew and loved him, Gary Sawyer’s char­ac­ter was de­fined by his brave fight­back af­ter com­ing inches from death in a spec­tac­u­lar car ac­ci­dent 40 years ago.

But there was so much more to the man, as his near­est and dear­est will at­test.

A suc­cess­ful and charis­matic busi­ness­man prior to his ac­ci­dent, Gary was proudly Ip­swich bred, at­tend­ing Silk­stone State School and Bre­mer High be­fore fol­low­ing his mum Jesse into hair­dress­ing.

They went into busi­ness part­ner­ship and at one stage owned five Salons in Ip­swich, un­der the name ‘Gary Sawyer Hair Fash­ions’.

Among his achieve­ments as a hair­dresser and busi­ness­mann was train­ing 54 ap­pren­tices, open­ing the state’s first men’s only salon, cut­ting Miss Aus­tralia’s hair and claim­ing first place in the 1976 Queens­land Hair Styling Cham­pi­onships.

His flair took him to the world stage, where he qual­i­fied eighth in the World Hair­dress­ing Cham­pi­onships in LA in 1977, and eighth in the World In­ter­na­tional Cham­pi­onships in Dus­sel­dorf the same year.

Gary’s rise to promi­nence al­lowed him the op­por­tu­nity to buy his dream car - a mint 1969 Corvette - but it was in this ma­chine that tragedy struck.

Af­ter at­tend­ing the Mel­bourne Cup Fash­ion Pa­rade in Bris­bane in 1980, Gary was driv­ing home in his blue Corvette when crashed on South Sta­tion Rd.

Daugh­ter Brooke Davies said the in­ci­dent changed her fa­ther’s life for­ever.

“He was pro­nounced dead at Ip­swich Hos­pi­tal,” Mrs Davies said.

“He was quickly trans­ferred to the PA Hos­pi­tal where sur­geons saved his life.

“He was left with se­vere brain dam­age and hemi­ple­gia, and was told he would never walk again, have chil­dren or drive a car.

“He sim­ply said ‘no’ to that and went on to do ev­ery­thing they told him he would not.”

That in­cluded hav­ing his first child with wife Judy. Brooke, was born three years af­ter the crash.

Brooke’s ar­rival changed much of Gary’s out­look on life.

“Dad de­voted the re­main­der of his life af­ter the ac­ci­dent to char­ity,” Mrs Davies said.

“He sold tick­ets for var­i­ous char­i­ties out­side Coles in Ip­swich and Wool­worths in the Mall.

“He was on the board of var­i­ous char­i­ties and an hon­orary mem­ber of the Ip­swich Ro­tary Club.

“He dressed up as Santa at char­ity Christ­mas par­ties and gave presents to those less for­tu­nate.

“He was fondly known as ‘the lolly man’, as he al­ways had a bas­ket of lol­lies at­tached to his arm and he wouldn’t let you get away with­out a lolly and a joke.”

His ma­jor achieve­ments later in life in­cluded walk­ing the Syd­ney Olympic torch as the re­lay passed through Booval.

Ear­lier, in 1986, he was awarded a Life Mem­ber­ship to the Aus­tralian So­ci­ety of In­ter­na­tional Hair­styl­ists.

Gary passed away, aged 71, at St Mary’s aged care cen­tre at Coolum Beach on Tues­day morn­ing, fol­low­ing a pro­longed bat­tle with heart and re­nal fail­ure.

“He fought tooth and nail to keep go­ing,” Mrs Davies said.

“I saw him for the last time on Mon­day night. I told him that I’d had enough of see­ing him suf­fer and I gave him per­mis­sion to go. He’d been non­re­spon­sive for three days ex­cept for a few squeezes of my hand and the oc­ca­sional rais­ing of his eye­brows.

“It’s a huge sense of re­lief to know he is fi­nally at peace.

“We are now fo­cussed on giv­ing him the send-off he de­serves.”

Gary’s fu­neral will be held at Cen­tral Church, Ip­swich at 10am on No­vem­ber 16.

Photo: FILE

WELL LOVED: Ip­swich per­son­al­ity Gary Sawyer has passed away aged 71. This was the QT’s last pho­to­graph of him, taken in 2011.

Gary's fa­bled 1969 Corvette, which was in­volved in a near-fa­tal crash in 1980.

Gary Sawyer with daugh­ter Brooke on her wed­ding day in 2007.

Gary Sawyer with Miss Aus­tralia, Rhonda If­fland, in 1970.

Gary Sawyer and team in his early salon days.

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