HomeBernie Banton Foundation - Tributes - Bernie Ba (...)

Born October 13, 1946
Died November 27, 2007

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Bernie Banton AM

Bernard Douglas Banton was born in Parramatta, Sydney on 13 October 1946 to Albert Edward Banton and Edith Alice Banton (nee Richardson).

Bernie's older siblings were very vocal about their dislike of the original name their parents had chosen for the pending new arrival. However, an alternate name could not be determined.

Just as the new baby was being delivered in hospital, a flammable liquid - ether - formerly used as an anaesthetic, caught fire and began to burn in the adjoining room. This commotion proved to be the inspiration for the naming of this future Australian hero.

Bernard was raised in a loving environment, strong in Christian values. He attended Parramatta North Public School and then Macquarie Boys High School.

This lovable larrikin, known to his friends as Bernie, became a painter and decorator - a true craftsman of his trade. In his early 20's, Bernie obtained a second job working at Hardie BI (Bradford Insulation). One of his older brothers, Ted (deceased 2001 as a result of mesothelioma), was a shift foreman at the factory.

Bernie had a great work ethic. For six years from 1968 to 1974, he painted houses by day and worked either the evening or night shift at this James Hardie factory located at Camellia, near Rose Hill. Here, Bernie and his co-workers produced the lagging material that was used to surround pipes at power stations.

Bernie was a loving father to Melinda, Adam, Brent and Christopher. In 1991, he married for the third time - a widow named Karen Patterson, who was Mum to her 20-month-old son, Dean. Bernie loved Dean as his own.

In February 1999, Bernie was diagnosed with asbestosis and asbestos related pleural disease (ARPD). By 2004, Bernie became the public face and passionate advocate in the battle against James Hardie Industries Limited (JHIL), to secure compensation into the future, on behalf of thousands of asbestos disease sufferers, affected by the company's asbestos products.

This 'David and Goliath' like battle was well documented via the media who gave such wonderful coverage, aided by the incredibly supportive union movement, so this tribute's focus is on Bernie - an ordinary guy, who accomplished the extraordinary!

Bernie absolutely loved sport - all kinds of sport! In particular, he was a passionate Parramatta Eels rugby league fan, and he really enjoyed watching rugby union and cricket, as well.

Bernie loved nothing more than playing a game of backyard cricket with his kids, and from the sideline he would cheer Dean on, as he ran down 'the wing' to score another try in schoolboy rugby.

Bernie had an extremely competitive nature, and prior to diagnosis would pride himself on winning the day, no matter whether it was squash, snooker, table tennis or volleyball. He would never 'go easy' on his boys to 'allow' them to win, simply because they were children. That may sound selfish or seem like 'tough love', but it drove each of them to hone their skills and improve their fitness, and they adored Bernie all the more for not giving in - he was a great Dad, and a much-loved Poppy to his 11 grandchildren.

Bernie had a wonderful sense of humour and a quick, dry wit, which caused me to laugh - a lot!

He was a man of integrity, with exceptionally high values. Bernie loved the Lord - with all his heart and soul and mind. Without a doubt, Bernie's favourite Old Testament character was David. Like King David, Bernie knew he had faults. But also like David, I believe Bernie was a man 'after God's own heart'!

Bernie was a man of compassion, who would give a person in need 'the shirt off his back'. He was also usually quite discerning, with the ability to gauge whether a person was truly genuine or not, in any situation.

There were no shades of grey with Bernie. He stood resolute in what he believed, and it took very convincing reasoning from someone better informed on a subject, to sway his opinion.

Yet, Bernie was a humble person. He felt incredibly honoured by the recognition he received in the twilight of his earthly life. However, he did not glory in it - there was far too much at stake, fighting for justice on behalf of other asbestos disease sufferers and their loved ones, to waste time and energy on self-gratification.

Bernie appreciated the accolades from his fellow man, but knew an eternal crown awaited him.

Bernie was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma on 17 August 2007. Just 102 days later, on 27 November 2007, 'angels took him home'!

In his final hours, Bernie was surely meditating upon Apostle Paul's words in 2 Timothy 4:6b-8, "And the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

Until we meet again my love,
Your Darling xx