Death of Wesfarmers 'great'

18 Dec, 2002 10:00 PM



WA AGRICULTURE lost one its favorite sons last weekend when Harry Perkins died of cancer.

It was only last Friday he retired as chairman of Wesfarmers because "over the past few weeks my health has deteriorated and I have decided to bring forward my retirement for that reason."

A former Nuffield Scholar, I last spoke with Harry at the annual Australian Nuffield Farming Scholars Association luncheon in November.

Nobody would have known that Harry was suffering. He displayed his disarming nature as "one of the boys", listening keenly and joining in enthusiastically in conversation about the future of agriculture.

Born in Bruce Rock, Harry's passion was to get the most out of the land.

When I met in the early eighties, he was founder and president of the Three Tonne Club which espoused the vision to grow three tonnes of wheat from 300mm of rain.

Talk of current day farmers regularly hitting 6t/ha used to cause Harry to break out in a broad grin, almost of pride in what his peers were achieving.

His character of honesty, integrity and respect for his fellow man won him many friends and he would have been hard to pick as one of WA's most successful businessman, such was his propensity to engage anyone he met in conversation on any subject.

When you were with Harry, you were with a mate.

He joined the board of the Westralian Farmers Cooperative in 1975 and rose to the position of chairman in 1986 where he oversaw the rapid expansion of the company to its present position as one of Australia's major corporations.

Apart from his continued association with the Nuffield Foundation he also was heavily involved as Chancellor of Curtin University for the past six years.

He almost single-handedly created the WA Institute of Medical Research aimed at coordinating and expanding research into adult health issues.

As Wesfarmers managing director Michael Chaney has said, it is impossible to overstate Harry's contribution to WA industry.

Likewise it is impossible to overstate his friendship.

We express our sorrow to Harry's wife Margaret and children Deb, Jane and Charlie.


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