Chequered flag for Mr Motorsport

Gerard Walsh

COL Furness will long be remembered as the voice of the Leyburn Sprints. Warwick Shire is today coming to terms with the loss of the 52-year-old lover of motorsport who died on Friday, after a courageous six-month battle with cancer. Col, who worked at the Daily News for 36 years, involved himself in many aspects of the community he so dearly loved. A member of the Warwick SES for the past 29 years, he displayed courage and leadership during countless rescues and assignments. Furness Crescent, off Cleary Street, was named after Col in recognition of his efforts in securing the construction of a velodrome in nearby Australiana Park. From his early days at Mt Gordon and Warwick East State schools and Warwick State High School, he was a giver to the Southern Downs community. Wife Julie yesterday said his passion for motorsport lay with the annual Leyburn Sprints. "Many called him the Darryl Eastlake of Leyburn," Julie said. He was honoured last year by the Leyburn Sprints Committee for his role as announcer for the first 10 meetings. Col's love of motorsport blossomed after meeting Julie and getting to know her parents Kev and Edna Bonwick and brother Gary. He was often on the road to race meetings with Gary, tools in hand and working for the Warwick District Sporting Car Club. His involvement with the club included five years as president and he also raced his own car. Col's love of announcing extended beyond the Leyburn Sprints. He announced at motorsport meetings from Lakeside in the north, to Greer Park and Echo Valley, and south to his beloved tracks at Warwick, Stanthorpe and Millmerran. He had an in-depth knowledge of drivers and their vehicles, but away from the track he was just as effective as MC for the Warwick Rose and Rodeo Procession for two decades. When Indy clashed with the procession, he would often travel from the Gold Coast to fulfil his promise and commentate during the procession from the vantage point at the Warwick Town Hall. Col's first job was delivering papers before he completed an apprenticeship as a compositor at the Daily News. He later moved into the editorial department, working as a journalist for the past seven years. From a young age, he had a special interest in photography and was photographer at hundreds of weddings, often with Julie at his side, video in hand. He loved taking photos for the paper and working in the media at Indy. Though he gave many hours to the Warwick community, he never lost sight of the special people in his life ? wife Julie, son Jamie and daughter Angela.  He was delighted when his first grandchild Mackenzie was born six months ago, to Jamie and fianc?e Meegan Wallace. Each year, he towed the caravan to Leyburn so the whole family could enjoy the sprints and two months later headed to the Gold Coast for the annual week at Indy. His love of fishing and the outdoors started at a young age when he first threw in a line with parents Col and Irene and sisters Julie, Jenny and Jacqueline. "For relaxation, he really enjoyed going camping, water skiing or fishing in his trusty tinny," wife Julie said. "Col enjoyed sitting around the campfire. "You were in for a long haul as he was always the last still awake. "He was never short of a story or four. "There isn't much in life that Col hasn't done, tried or been involved with in some way." During one period of his life his rostered day off was a Monday but such was his commitment to the community, he spent the day as a volunteer at the Warwick Tourist Information Centre and the night coaching gymnastics. Gymnastics in the early 1970s was in the gym at Queen's Park, which was washed away in the floods of 1976. He was also involved in promoting Life Be In It programs in schools. Col, Bruce Cox and Geoffrey Karle teamed up to win the Queensland State Sailing Title in the corsair class in 1973. He completed a cycling marathon to Brisbane and back with Bruce Lechner, Kev Madsen and Ross Pollard to raise funds for the velodrome, setting what many thought was a record of five-and-a-half hours one-way for the time. He was a Warwick Cycling Club junior/senior combined champion. As a toddler, he first sat on a stool at the back of Bluey Hudson's pie van to enjoy one of Warwick's institutions. So grew his love of Hudson's pie and peas, especially on a cold winter's day. School cadets at Warwick High, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, hockey, basketball, motorcycle racing and acting as a Justice of the Peace were some of his other interests during the years. Despite failing health in the past six months, he kept his spirits up and as always, headed to Leslie Dam with family, caravan and boat for the Easter long weekend. A lover of everything Warwick and a doer in every sense of the word, Col's loss will be felt across the Australian world of motorsport and the Southern Downs. His funeral service will be held at St Mark's Anglican Church this week at a time to be finalised.

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