Boat-builder Don Parke downs tools for last time

LABOUR OF LOVE: Don works on his replica of the America’s Cup winner.
LABOUR OF LOVE: Don works on his replica of the America’s Cup winner. Rob Williams

DON Parke treasured two great loves in life: his family and building boats.

The 86-year-old could often be found out the back of his Raceview home building or repairing wooden boats with uncompromising craftmanship.

Don started building small boats from the age of 14, gradually working his way up to much bigger powered cruisers and sailing catamarans.

It was a passion that lasted more than 70 years and one that saw the great-grandfather build about 50 vessels.

At family gatherings, Don was always keen to update relatives about his boats and proudly reveal his ambitious plans for future projects.

His dream was to create a scaled-down replica of the vessel that took out the inaugural America's Cup.

In preparation, he spent several years carefully researching and planning for the project before he started crafting the skeleton of the 10m schooner.

Don believed boats had souls and he had a need to nurture those souls.

For that reason, he always built his boats from wood, because it was a living material.

On occasions he was assisted by his late wife of 31 years, Tricia, who shared his enthusiasm for boating and woodwork.

The retired couple had planned to sail the replica schooner around Moreton Bay, living on board several days at a time.

Sadly, old age and rheumatoid arthritis slowed Don down and he wasn't able to complete his labour of love before he died earlier this month.

But he was able to keep his passion alive, continuing to make adjustments until the very end.

An only child, Don was born in Brisbane on February 6, 1928, to Charles Parke and Rosa Page.

Don's passion for boats was enriched by spending his early years fishing and sailing.

During his childhood, he won numerous sailing races as a junior and was often featured in the local news.

Don is survived by three sons, six step-children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren - with one more on the way.

He married three times - to Delma and Margaret before Tricia.

Don's youngest son Anthony Parke said he would fondly remember how his dad taught him to sail and the countless hours Don spent tinkering away in his workshop.

"He was a real handyman, always fixing things," he said.

"He was also a bit of a character too and enjoyed joking around with others."

Above all, Anthony said his father was a very likable man and would be dearly missed by all who knew him.

Celebration of life

  • Donald Eric Charles Parke
  • 1928 - 2014
  • Known for his work constructing about 50 hand-built boats.
  • Believed boats had souls.

Topics:  obituary

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