Jack Renault was known to many of us in Karratha and I thank the RSL for giving me the opportunity to say a few words at this memorial service: it is not very often we celebrate the passing of a 105-year-old local!
Jack was born in the USA, in the same year as my father – 1917 – and his stories of World War 2 reminded me of my dad’s experiences in the navy where he served on the islands to the north of Australia during those difficult and worrisome years of the 1940s.
Jack was in the US Army, and he served on Okinawa Island during the war. The Battle of Okinawa was one of the major battles of the Pacific War. It lasted 82 days until late June 1945 – only a few months before the world war 2 ended. Okinawa was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theatre and resulted in massive casualties - approximately 160,000 servicemen and women on both sides were killed. I don’t know the details of Jack’s involvement in this battle but when the war finished, he was involved in restoration, in particular ordering and executing the painting of US Army facilities there.
Being based on Okinawa, Jack travelled around western Pacific after the war – some as part of his job - and it was in this part of the world that he met his adventurous Australian wife-to-be, Kathy - which of course eventually brought him to Australia!
There were some massive projects happening in northern WA in the mid-1960’s and in 1964 Jack arrived in Exmouth for the construction and painting of the new US Naval Communications Station there. He worked on painting the incredible 400 m high VLF Towers on the Cape at this time.
Dampier is not far away from Exmouth in north-west terms, and in 1968 Jack was contracted as a painter to Hamersley Iron in Dampier, where he remained until he took over a friend’s auto parts store, A1-Autos in the late 1970s. A1-Autos gave Jack the chance to work independently – he always loved being his own boss. As he said on his 103rd birthday in January 2020:
“I love fishing, I love the bush, I love my independence, and I don’t want people telling me to do anything”!
Jack insisted on doing things properly. As he said:
“One thing that I insist on is do things thoroughly. Don’t do it halfway, don’t do it three quarters of the way.”
Jack never became an Australian citizen, so could never vote in our elections, but he was a passionate advocate for ratepayers and kept us on our toes.I remember when he asked that the City publish all our monthly payments in the local paper so he could keep an eye on things!There are well over 1000 of these on 33-odd pages - which we actually publish monthly in our council minutes anyway: I think we finally convinced him on that one!
Jack was a smart, with a keen interest in world affairs and he kept a wide range of historical documents in his store – that he could always find and refer to. And as a result, I have my own “Jack Renault” file of letters and articles he sent to me – often asking for things to be fixed!
Jack travelled the world before settling in Karratha and encouraged young people to do the same: “Don’t be afraid to get off the island of Australia. It’s a big world out there,”
In later life, with his wife Kathy gone and daughter Meron in the US, he gained a great appreciation the role of friends. He said: “a perk of living a long life is the friends you make. Friends are very, very important”. As they are.
So, we now say goodbye to one of the great characters of the north-west: well travelled, fifty four years in Karratha and local legend, Jack had initiative, great courage, and an acute sense of independence. Jack, you will be missed, but our best wishes go out to you on the next stage of your life.
And I am sure you will keep ‘em honest up there too!