18 July 2022

There's a wake for Queanbeyan's beloved cowboy 'Tex' and you're invited

| James Coleman
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Terry or Tex, Queanbeyan’s iconic cowboy. Photo: Perry Kingston-Lee.

The Queanbeyan community is invited to a memorial service for one of the town’s beloved personalities next week.

Terry O’Callaghan, or as he came to be called by locals, “Tex” or simply “The Cowboy”, moved to Queanbeyan two decades ago and before long, earned a reputation for his love of rodeo couture and a good chat.

He was easily spotted wandering the streets and shops thanks to a wide-brimmed hat on his head and big cowboy boots on his feet, with a printed T-shirt and tight black trousers in between. He wore this combination, with some slight variations (including a dabble in skate sneakers) for the better part of two decades.

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He also didn’t let his minimal means get in the way of his passion for global social and political issues, and would often call into local businesses for a chat about music, his beloved All Blacks, nuclear fusion, and the plight of the Amazon rainforest.

Terry was admitted to Queanbeyan Hospital on 8 May after collapsing head-first into the pavement in the car park at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre (The Q). He was later transferred to The Canberra Hospital before an update on 12 May reported he was back at home and resting.

However, 10 days later, he was found dead in his home by a friend on Monday, 23 May. News broke on the Queanbeyan Community Notice Board group on Facebook, setting off an outpouring of thoughts and dollars from the community that had grown to know him well.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) was approached by his family to help raise funds for a funeral to lay Terry to rest. QPRC Mayor Kenrick Winchester responded by organising a GoFundMe page with a goal of $15,000.

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He said the community had been “very shattered by the news”.

“He just seemed to be one of those people you’d always see when you drove down the main street or ran into when you went to Riverside Plaza.”

Donations were disabled at $6450, more than enough to cover the cost of Terry’s cremation by Simplicity Funerals. His ashes were spread at the family farm – where Terry grew up – in Culverden, New Zealand.

The O’Callaghan family is now using the excess funds to invite the community to a memorial service at 2 pm on Saturday, 23 July at one of his favourite haunts, Walsh’s Hotel on Monaro Street. They expect about 200 people will attend.

Co-owner at Walsh’s Hotel Michael Bagley said he first saw Terry 18 years ago, digging in the garden beds at the Tourist Hotel “like Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons“.

Walsh's Hotel

Walsh’s Hotel in Queanbeyan. Photo: Visit NSW.

“He was a very likeable character about town, walking around dressed as a DJ rapper one day, then with a New Zealand flag on his back whenever the All Blacks were playing and the next day as a cowboy.”

Michael used to pay Terry for gardening work at Walsh’s Hotel, which – on the whole – went well.

“He wanted a few extra Heineken beers one day, so he decided to turn up early and cut back all my freaking indoor ferns under the TV,” he said.

“I was just thinking about how well they were growing too.”

Michael said he hadn’t had an order for Heineken beer since Terry’s death and Walsh’s “isn’t the same without him”.

Light snacks will be provided at the wake and while the dress code is casual, wearing an Akubra or cowboy boots in honour of Terry is encouraged. RSVPs aren’t required.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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