FAMILY and friends have paid tribute to an Eaglehawk man once described in Federal Parliament as a living treasure.
Gordon McKern died on Sunday aged 85.
The member of the Order of Australia moved his family and business from Melbourne to Eaglehawk in 1976 in what he always regarded as the best thing he had ever done, son Phil said.
"He was an extremely thoughtful man who cared about others way before himself," he said.
"He was very community-minded. His community work was non-stop. I will always remember that commitment. He seemed to have time for everything too, including his family."
Mr McKern leaves behind six children, 18 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
Son Michael now owns McKern Steel, formerly McKern Manufacturing, the business Mr McKern brought to Eaglehawk decades ago.
Michael said his father was always there for his family.
"He was the leader of our family. He was the support mechanism that kept the family going," he said.
"He was always full of advice and mentoring, making sure everyone was okay all the time - always ringing and talking with us and catching with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"Every day, whether face-to-face or not, we spoke. We were always on the phone to each other talking community, sport, business or family. Whatever the topic of the day was.
"He was surrounded by family yesterday and I'm positive he would have been delighted with that."
Leave a tribute for Gordon McKern's family below.
Michael said many people from all corners of the Bendigo and Eaglehawk regions had contacted the family to share their memories of Mr McKern.
"There's been no shortage of people sending notes along and making sure the family is going alright," Michael said.
"It's hard to keep up with but it's really nice. He certainly crammed a lot in during his 85 years. Especially the last 40 since he came up to Bendigo."
Mr McKern served on a number of boards across the city, including but not limited to Ulumbarra Theatre, the Bendigo Art Gallery, the Aspire Foundation, Coliban Water and Bendigo TAFE.
He also helped shape the City of Greater Bendigo in a relationship that stretched back to amalgamation in the 1990s, mayor Jennifer Alden said.
"He helped make some critical decisions that would set the City up for success, including relocating the saleyards to Huntly, taking responsibility for Bendigo Art Gallery and The Capital theatre, relocating the creche from Rosalind Park to open up the entrance to the park, and development of the now Peter Krenz Leisure Centre," she said.
Mr McKern was named both Eaglehawk's and Bendigo's citizen of the year over the course of his life, and last year received Rotary International's prestigious service above self award.
That award is given to only 100 people worldwide every year.
Bendigo councillor and former mayor Margaret O'Rourke said Mr McKern was a family friend and mentor.
"There's a lot that we can be thankful for with people like that," she said.
"There's a Facebook post by one of Gordon's sons going around at the moment that lists a lot of his achievements. It's fair to say that we are all fiddling around the edges compared to what he did during his life."
City of Greater Bendigo chief executive Craig Niemann said Mr McKern would be missed across the whole region.
"When you think of his role with Coliban Water, that went down to Kyneton and to the other side of Echuca," he said.
"Big cities and small communities relied on him and his leadership, which was fantastic.
"No matter what he was involved in, he stepped up to be a key leader. He didn't go on committees for the sake of it. He got involved to make a positive difference in our communities."
Mr Niemann said Mr McKern was always interested in what was happening at the council and how it would affect the region's future.
"He was there as commissioner for a period of time and had a key leadership role at an important time in the mid-1990s when amalgamation was happening," he said.
"He was a really broad thinker and a strategic long-term thinker. He was always in front of the game, never chasing his tail. It was very much about wanting to make a contribution.
"The word community was strong for Gordon. It wasn't just about being personally successful (or) having success in the family. Success in the community and being part of the community meant a lot to him.
"It's very sad for this community. We should be proud of the contributions Gordon has made. He deserves our thanks."
Ulumbarra Foundation deputy board chairman Dale Pearce said Mr McKern was a founding member and essential to the foundation's launch in 2016.
"He was the driving force behind creating the foundation, determined to bring the joy of performing arts to as many people in our community as possible," he said.
"He had a passion for opera and fine music, and delighted in showcasing the amazing Ulumbarra Theatre to his many friends and donors.
"Gordon led the foundation's important work in supporting Bendigo's performing artists and organisations, and the programs that brought so many children and families to enjoy our theatres.
"(He) leaves an immense legacy in our community and as a foundation we've been blessed to benefit from his wisdom and leadership since our inception."
Bendigo Advertiser readers pay tribute to Gordon McKern
"What an utter delight was Gordon McKern. His enormous achievements in life were executed with such grace. He was always pleased to chat..... with everyone. A thoroughly lovely gentleman who will be sadly missed by so many. I will smile every time I think of Gordon." - Margot Spalding
"I served Mr McKern , in my last employment .. he was always a gentleman and a lovely man .. always remembered my name and very kind . Sending love to his family." - Pauline
"Sincere condolences on your loss. I had the privilege of meeting and working with Gordon during my time at the City of Greater Bendigo. Inspirational doesn't do him justice. A truly remarkable leader." - Nicole Dunstone
"Our deepest sympathy to the McKern family. Gordon was a true leader and dear friend to my parents, Mary and John (dec) and lived the values of Rotary together "Service above Self".". - Seamus Haugh
"A great bloke, family man, Rotarian and friend, he will be sadly missed." - Gary and Lyndal McClure
"What a true gentleman Gordon was. I have fond memories of working with Gordon when he was on the Board of Management for Professional Training Services an arm of TAFE in the early 1990s. Sincere sympathy to his family." - Sonya Steve
"To Michael /McKern Family Our sincere thoughts and condolences. Remembering Gordon for his generosity and caring nature. May he in Peace , Suzy , Bradyn and Dylan McGregor." - Susan McGregor
"An example to all... he will be missed but not forgotten...." - Dr Herbert G.J. Hermens
"A good man who always showed off Bendigo to the World. Our sympathy to Michael and all the family." - Michael Westbrook
"I had known Michael since he played junior football with my son, and I got know Gordon during my time in Eaglehawk. A great man, will be missed." - Alan Burkitt. ex Eaglehawk Real Estate.e.e.
"I had the privilege of knowing Gordon for more than 20 years, as a Chairman, leader, mentor and friend. He was a true statesman, and his advocacy for the Bendigo community and the arts will be long remembered by those he inspired, and cherished by us all. Loved and now missed. Condolences to the McKern family." - Carolyn Stanford
"I had the great pleasure of working with Gordon on two significant Bendigo heritage and cultural projects. His legacy for our city, a greater Arts & Culture Bendigo. A true gentleman and will be missed." - Matt Dwyer AIA
"I am so moved and inspired by having known Gordon. He made time to come and support my charity screenings and have catch ups and very sad to hear of his passing. Rest In Peace beautiful man. Thankyou for all your support and spirit of generosity." - Stephanie Woollard
"A true gentleman. Gordon and Anita were both dear friends of the late Bill and Lola Miller. Thoughts are with the entire McKern family during this time." - Mary Peel
"Sad to hear of the passing of Gordon. He was a wonderful community member, and offered great mentorship of me during our year as Bendigo Citizen and Young Citizen of the Year. I am grateful for the time I spent with Gordon. Best wishes to the family." - Skye Kinder
To leave a notice in our print edition, contact our Classifieds desk on (03) 5434 4433 or on email: email@example.com