Manly’s local legend, Bourke Gibbons, known for his pen-selling charity work, awesome fundraising and Paralympic prowess, passed away recently, aged 76.
Bourke was a well-loved character frequently seen in his wheelchair on The Corso, selling pens for charity. He raised tens of thousands of dollars for good causes, including the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation, The Shepherd Centre and Bear Cottage Children’s Hospice.
“He had a particularly hard childhood and he didn’t want other children to miss out on experiencing the joy of childhood,” his niece MP Melanie Gibbons explained.
Bourke was born with Cerebral Palsy and wasn’t expected to live into adulthood, his niece revealed. As a young boy, Bourke was admitted to the Peat and Milson Islands Mental Hospital, where he saw horrible practices. Instead of spending his life feeling jaded, he was motivated to make the world a better place for other people.
Bourke was often seen raising money outside St Matthews Church in all weather and became a celebrated icon of the community. He was awarded an Order of Australia (OAM) for his charitable fundraising.
Bourke was never one to take things easy. In addition to his charitable support, he represented Australia in the Paralympic Games twice as part of the Boccia Team.
At his funeral, organised by Picaluna with the help of Pittwater Funerals, many shared stories of their friendship with Bourke and how he had impacted their lives.
“A lot of people said that he would see them looking upset, so he would go over to them and start to have a chat. He took an interest in them when they were doing it tough. He was a protector. From a simple chat came friendships that lasted for decades.”
“He loved life, he loved helping people, he loved making a difference and he was very loved in return.”
His friends and family wore bright Hawaiian shirts and his coffin was adorned in messages of love and thanks for his inspiring legacy.