The former Horsham mayor and enthusiastic advocate and ambassador had at the time, in typical jovial fashion, compared his fight to a stricken cricket team and wore a badge that proclaimed ‘9-50 chasin’ 400, but still grinding away’.
His daughter Rebecca McIntyre said family members were grateful to be able to fulfill Gary’s wish to be at home when he died.
“It was really nice to have him home with family. He also had a lot of visitors last week, which was really nice,” she said.
Comments from well-wishers also flooded social media on news of Gary’s death.
Gary Bird grew up on a family farm at Neuarpurr, was a steel fabricator by trade, went into general construction and moved into the crane-hire industry. At the same time he poured his spare time into community and sporting leadership.
Records he fastidiously kept showed during his time in ‘trying to make a difference’ he championed the underdog, superstar, Horsham and the Wimmera, that he spent time on 53 committees, boards or advisory councils.
He was on Horsham Rural City Council from 2003 to 2012, becoming mayor in the 2006-2007 year.
Former senior Horsham council officers Kerryn Shade and David Eltringham spoke glowingly about his contribution to Horsham society and how he had used rare and occasionally cheeky diplomatic skills to ‘get a better deal’.
“He was a great down-to-earth sort of bloke and had a degree in common sense and intuition,” Mr Shade said.
“He was a highly competent diplomat, chaired meetings well and enjoyed sparring with other councillors during spirited debate. Above all, he simply loved Horsham and the Wimmera.
“He was a loveable larrikin and blossomed when he was mayor, on one occasion shining when chosen by 10 large regional cities to lead a delegation to Canberra. He could mix with people from all circles of life. Blue collar as an individual but with great understanding of society overall, he had the common touch.”
Mr Eltringham recalled Gary’s passion for ‘everything Horsham’.
“He was a great man. The thing about Gary that immediately comes to mind was that he was always 100 percent on promoting Horsham. Wherever he went and whatever he did on council, promotion of Horsham was his first objective. He joined the council to make sure Horsham was to the fore and on the map,” he said.
“Who could forget what he did with the Spirit of the Bush concert for drought relief at Longerenong? That was him all over.
“The way he supported and embraced Horsham district youth and people with disabilities was also inspiring.”
Mr Eltringham said Gary was also determined to ensure people understood the meaning of sacrifice people had made during war.
He said he often spoke at depth during ceremonies and had organised for two Wimmera Second World War Darwin Defenders to attend the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin in Darwin.
“As always, he managed to mix with someone important or influential – on that occasion Tony Abbott – and to talk up Horsham,” he said.
Gary Bird’s funeral service will be at Horsham Church of Christ at 2pm on Friday.