Australia's oldest man dies at 109
By Luke Prendergast
"HE GAVE it a pretty good shake to live forever." So said the daughter of Australia's oldest man, Bangalow's Frank Scarrabelotti, who died yesterday aged 109.
Mr Scarrabelotti, who would have turned 110 on August 4, died peacefully in his home early yesterday.
His funeral will be held on Friday at midday at St Kevin's Catholic Church in Bangalow.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Nell, 82, two daughters, Mary and Helen, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Frank Scarrabelotti was the son of Italian immigrants who arrived in Australia in 1880. He was born at Bungawalbin, near Coraki, in 1897.
Friends yesterday paid tribute to the former Nashua dairy farmer.
Ballina MP Don Page said Mr Scarrabelotti had been a great friend. "He and I were pretty good mates," Mr Page said. "He was a good friend to a lot of people. He was one of nature's gentlemen, he really was."
Every morning around 6 o'clock, Mr Scarrabelotti's friend, Arthur Prentice, picks up the Scarrabelottis' newspaper from their lawn and puts it on the back step. The 90-year-old did so again yesterday, unaware he had seen his mate for the last time.
"We were quite close," he said. "He was a marvellous old man, well respected by everyone. I'm really sad. I knew he was failing; I could tell, but I kept it to myself."
Mr Scarrabelotti's daughter, Helen Markwick, said her father achieved his aim of 'going out with his boots on'. "He had a wonderful life and he said that himself," she said. "He loved Bangalow and the people in it, so he had a great life. He gave it a pretty good shake to live forever."
After 30 years on the farm, the Scarrabelottis moved into the Bangalow township in the 1960s, and Mr Scarrabelotti's rose garden soon became the pride of his life.
Ms Markwick said her father worked in it right up until the past year, when he began to slow down and brought in a gardener, restricting himself to sitting in the sun admiring his beloved roses.
"We thought he'd make it to 110, but it wasn't to be," she said. "But he wouldn't have liked to have been in hospital. As he said, it's better to go out with your boots on. He just wore out in the end."
Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said she was saddened to hear of Mr Scarrabelotti's death.
"He was an incredibly community-spirited person who was an inspiration to a lot of people with his commitment to community issues at that age," she said.
Federal Member for Richmond, Justine Elliot, said the community 'will long remember Frank'.
Filmmaker Terry Bleakley, whose film, My Bangalow My Love, featured Mr Scarrabelotti and Mr Prentice, said he was an intelligent, articulate man until the end.
Jim Buckley, 'whose father Joe had been a lifelong friend of Mr Scarrabelotti, spoke to him on the phone just a few days ago 'and he sounded just the same'.
Mr Buckley quoted from his father's speech at Mr Scarrabelotti's 100th birthday celebrations:
"You were a witness to, and part of, the evolution of our district from the horse and sulky days to today. A courteous, cultured yet humble gentleman. Truly one of nature's gentlemen. A perfectionist in all his undertakings, and to quote our Australian poet (Henry Kendall, in Bill the Bullock-Driver), 'as straight and as sound as a slab without a crack'."
Frank Scarrabelotti. August 4, 1897 June 12, 2007.