Gero stalwarts bid city farewell

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Adam PoulsenGeraldton Guardian
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John and Anne Luk at their home on Chapman Road, where the Australian flag has proudly flown for years. The couple will move to Busselton early next year.
Camera IconJohn and Anne Luk at their home on Chapman Road, where the Australian flag has proudly flown for years. The couple will move to Busselton early next year. Credit: Adam Poulsen

John and Anne Luk are leaving Geraldton for only one reason.

The well-known couple, in their 65th year of wedded bliss, are moving to Busselton to be closer to family.

“We’re going to be very sad leaving. We’ve made friends with a lot of lovely people,” Mrs Luk, 83, said.

“But the family are all down south and we think it’s the right thing to do,” Mr Luk added.

Mr Luk is perhaps best known for spending 20 years picking up roadside rubbish — a tireless effort for which he was named Geraldton Greenough Australia Day Citizen of the Year in 2002.

The 87-year-old was also a formidable cyclist, dubbed “King of the Mountains” in 1955 after winning a gruelling 30-lap race around Mt Scott on a single-gear bike.

Other highlights included being elected a councillor in 1970 — payment at the time was a block of chocolate and a packet of cigarettes — and when he “almost shook hands” with Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Geraldton in 1963.

Mr Luk migrated to Australia from Holland with his family in 1948, to avoid mandatory national service training in Indonesia.

Indonesia was then a Dutch colony fighting for independence, and young Dutch servicemen were routinely murdered by Indonesian troops.

Mr Luk spent the next two years working at the now-abandoned mining town of Big Bell, in the Shire of Cue, where he became a junior draftsman.

It was a culture shock, to say the least. “Some of these miners were pretty rough,” he recalled. “Me being a little inexperienced Dutch boy, they used to give me merry hell.”

A year after several family members moved to Geraldton, Mr Luk followed suit.

“It wasn’t much of a life in Big Bell. I got homesick. I missed the family. Then I saw the light and came to Geraldton.”

In 1952, Mr Luk bought his first property — a quarter-acre lot on Third Street — for a tidy $80. That same year, he met Anne Coote and the pair were married two years later.

They went on to raise three daughters: Dixie, Donna and Deris.

Mr Luk said at the time Fifth Street was the only bitumen road in Wonthella.

“All the others were just sand tracks. You could barely even push your bike through it,” he said.

Since then, the couple have watched society — and the roads — change for the better.

After their marriage, Mrs Luk was forced to resign from her job at the Bank of New South Wales, because banks refused to employ married women.

“I went to work in the morning and all the other men were there,” she said. “They all came to the wedding — but there were no women.”

Despite the progress, Mr Luk said it was disappointing to see Geraldton’s retail industry decline.

“The biggest problem I can see is the number of empty shops. It appears to be going backwards,” he said.

But Mr and Mrs Luk still think Geraldton is a great place to live.

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