He would have turned 90 on Monday 5 July but sadly in May this year, residents of Marian, Mackay, as well as Warwick and Junabee mourned the loss of a remarkable man, Walter Alan Kemp.
Wally was the only son of Alan and Gertrude Kemp of Junabee and was born on 5 July 1927 into a very close farming family and community.
He rode the horse each day to Jingarry School and staked his role in continuing the farming tradition of the Kemps pioneered by his grandfather J.J. (Jermyn) Kemp.
Jermyn with his wife Ellen were one of the first families to clear and cultivate the land they had purchased from the break-up of South Canning Downs in the late 1890s, and were one of a handful of resident families who gave the district its new name of Junabee.
Wally and his two sisters, Marj (Mogridge) and Dorothy (Andreason) were raised on the farm which still stands in Kemp’s Road.
Wally worked as a boy helping his father Alan when he wasn’t in school.
His mother Gertie was a teacher at Junabee School.
After a number of years at Jingarry School, he rode once a week to Yangan to attend Rural School.
Here he and other young lads from the district (including Max Anstey) learned woodwork, metalwork and other skills that aspiring young farmers needed to know.
His young life at Junabee was filled with work on the farm, cultivating, seeding and harvesting, all with teams of horses.
To earn money, he and his cousin Bob Kemp would pull corn for neighbouring farms … hot, hard work, something that Wally Kemp would know only too well throughout his working life.
His leisure time would be spent at country dances at Junabee, Emu Vale and Tannymorel, Sunday family picnics, and fishing trips out to the western rivers with Aub Mogridge and other mates.
And, of course, Wal developed his love of all things mechanical and bringing them back to working condition.
This probably began with the complete disassembly of his first car, a 1929 Plymouth ute, whose many and varied parts were photographed spread around outside the Junabee farmhouse.
In 1947, at the age of 20, Wal took a holiday to Ballina with Wilson Gear and Aub Mogridge and, in a camping ground on the beach, met the love of his life, Joyce Davis.
Joyce was from Lismore in NSW and after many miles of travel (it was a long way to Lismore from Junabee in the late 1940s) and many years of courting, Wal and Joyce married in May 1952 and Junabee had another resident.
The end of that year, however, was a tragic time for Wal. His father Alan, his grandfather Jermyn, and his grandmother Ellen all died within 30 days. Wal had lost his father and his mentor.
Within three years, Wal and Joyce had started their family. The first child Graeme was born in 1955, followed two years later by their second boy Neale.
After a number of years it was clear that share farming was not going to be sufficient to support this growing family and the tough decision was made to leave Junabee.
Being always the adventurer, Wal took the family for the long journey up the Queensland coast to Cairns, enjoying a break from the farm but also exploring the world outside of the life he had known to that point.
While on this journey Wal was also looking for a new career as a mechanic but, unfortunately, did not have the certification required – even in 1960.
Coming back to Warwick, Wal and Joyce purchased what would become their family home for 23 years in Rowland Street.
From here Wal started work with the produce merchants Olsen Bros, but it was not too long before he purchased his first truck (a 1957 Commer) and started his own carting business.
Best known for carting hay and grain around the district, farmers throughout Junabee and surrounding districts soon got to know that “they could rely on Wal”.
Over the years the carting business grew to include a fertilizer agency and bulk grain agency, and the family grew to include a daughter, Dianne, who was the apple of his eye.
The site of Wal’s green Commer plying the back roads was as synonymous with Junabee as was the imprint that his grandfather had made some 50 years before. Both Jermyn and Alan would have been well proud.
Without doubt, hay carting is some of the hardest work there is, yet Wally Kemp turned to this incredible challenge day after day in order to raise his family through the ’60s and ’70s.
It may not be well known that Wal had suffered with chronic asthma his whole life and, given this, it is admirable enough that this man was able to work as hard as he did, but to do so for all these years under the debilitating effects of breathlessness is simply incredible.
After the children had left school and entered the workforce, Wal made the decision to sell the trucks and work in an area which was a little better for his health.
He became a driver and operator for the local electrical authority (then the SWQEB) and worked there for a number of years before deciding again to become his own boss.
In 1979, he acquired two mail delivery contracts, one for him and one for Joyce. For the next four years Wal and Joyce drove the back roads of Warwick’s farming communities (including Junabee) carrying everything from bread to plough discs to grateful farmers.
These were among the happiest days of Wal’s life, he was his own boss, he was out in the country he loved, talking with people he really connected with … country people.
With a perpetual yearning for adventure, in 1983 at the age of 55, Wal decided that it was time to really experience Australia.
He and Joyce sold their house and began their five year trek around Australia in which time they truly got to know this country and its people.
In classic roving style they would travel for some time and then stop to work doing whatever they could to earn money to enable them to travel on.
Being a farmer, a trucker and a mechanic, Wal had no trouble gaining employment and his employers were always sorry to see him go when it was time to move on.
Throughout his life, Wally carried with him a great sense of humility, which made him a most likeable character.
This was driven mostly through his enquiring nature, he always wanted to know more and his keen interest in all things made him a great conversationalist.
Hence, all through his life he befriended people from all walks of life and he maintained those relationships with zeal.
In 1988, Wal and Joyce began the next phase of their lives by buying property in the Hampden Valley outside Mackay where they set about to enjoy their retirement, developing a bare property into a virtual rainforest oasis.
In a very few years of hard work, Wal and Joyce transformed this property into something that was the envy of the valley and all who came to visit.
Over the next 25 years, Wally never stopped learning. He turned his hand to gardening, fruit growing, gum nut craft, fishing and finally into a love of bromeliads which ultimately became a thriving business.
Over these years, Wally welcomed four grandchildren into the Kemp family and was a loving and devoted Pa who mostly enjoyed teaching them to fish.
The yearning for adventure never quit with Wally. Every year he would get the itch to travel again and see more of this country that he loved.
As the map on his wall testifies, Wally had travelled on most of the roads in Australia, not just to drive, but to experience the people, the flora and the fauna.
His love of Australia was very pure and he cared deeply about the land. The one person who was able to put Wal’s love of the country and its people into words was Slim Dusty and it’s no coincidence that his recordings abound in the Kemp household.
Wally always believed that travellers should see and understand their own country before they travelled too widely overseas, but in his later years he covered a considerable amount of the world as he and Joyce travelled to the UK, Europe, Canada, America, China, Singapore, New Zealand and Tahiti. Travel was never something he had enough of.
His thirst for adventure always meant that there was the next trip to plan. In fact, right up until some months back, Wally had planned to ride The Ghan in 2017 to see the outback from a different perspective. In his memory, Joyce will take that ride next year.
A friend to all and humble till the end, Wally’s passing was dignified and peaceful, at home with the love of his life by his side.
Nothing was more important to him than preserving his love for Joyce.
His final tribute to her was to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary the day before he passed. Who would have thought that a man who had worked so hard and endured so much could have lived to almost see 90 years?
There will be a sizeable hole left here on earth by the passing of Wally Kemp. Here was a man who showed how to live, how to love and how to experience and enjoy as much as possible in this short time on earth.
Wally will be sorely missed in all those communities and social circles which were fortunate enough to have known him.
In memory of Wally, the Junabee Memorial Hall is being refurbished and will now include a memorial garden to the pioneering families of this district.
– Contributed by Wally’s family.

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