Ipswich Show Society president Rusty Thomas sadly passed away on Thursday night, November 12, 2020.
Ipswich Show Society president Rusty Thomas sadly passed away on Thursday night, November 12, 2020.

SHOWMAN AT HEART: Remembering the life of Rusty Thomas

THOSE who knew him best describe him as larger than life and, judging by the legacy he has left behind, it isn’t hard to see why.

Ipswich Show Society stalwart David “Rusty” Thomas has left behind his beloved wife Kay, three children and countless friends, after he passed away Thursday night, aged 76.

The loss of the born and bred Ipswich local has rocked the community, with tributes flowing from politicians, former colleagues and those who worked alongside him in the show society.

Rusty Thomas from the Ipswich Show Society has passed away aged 76.
Rusty Thomas from the Ipswich Show Society has passed away aged 76.

Former vice president Darren Zanow spoke to the Queensland Times of the 30-year friendship that blossomed between the pair after they met through the show society.

“We met at the showgrounds when I was just a kid and Rusty was always larger than life and very happy,” Darren said.

“He was a great mate, a mentor to me and, in a lot of ways, like a father to me. I’m just devastated as to what has happened.”

The pair worked alongside one another in the show society, most recently as president and vice president.

Ipswich Show project project manager Richard Ernst, Ipswich Show Society president Rusty Thomas and Condev Construction site manager Laurie Prior, in a photo taken during construction work at the showgrounds a few years ago.
Ipswich Show project project manager Richard Ernst, Ipswich Show Society president Rusty Thomas and Condev Construction site manager Laurie Prior, in a photo taken during construction work at the showgrounds a few years ago.

“We were a team, Rusty and I, certainly behind the scenes, making it happen. It’s just not going to be the same without him,” Darren said.

“He was such a character and loveable person who really loved the community and Ipswich.”

He recalled Rusty’s dedication to the Ipswich show over more than 50 years.

“He loved the show movement and providing happiness for kids – he was a real showman at heart,” he said.

“There is a huge hole left in the Ipswich Show Society now and there are big shoes to fill.”

When she heard the news of his passing, Rusty’s former work colleague and friend Madonna Oliver was extremely saddened.

“He’s a character, salt of the earth character and one of a kind,” Madonna said.

The pair met in the early 1990s when Rusty’s company produced promotional material for Madonna, who was the marketing manager at Ipswich City Square.

Rusty Thomas at the Gold Coast Show. Picture Mike Batterham
Rusty Thomas at the Gold Coast Show. Picture Mike Batterham

When Madonna had trouble changing the date of the show holiday from the Thursday to the Friday, Rusty took Madonna to visit the Show Society.

“They wanted to keep Thursday so people wouldn’t take a long weekend but Thursday in those days was such a huge retail day,” she said.

“But they did come around and change it and it’s because Rusty bridged the gap between retailers and the Show Society.”

Madonna remembered how Rusty and his team would work their magic transforming Ipswich City Square for Christmas.

“He was incredibly resourceful and there was no challenge too big for Rusty – he would just and say ‘yeah, leave it with me’ and off he would go,” she said.

The tragedy of Rusty’s passing has been felt by politicians who have offered their condolences.

Ipswich Show Society’s Darren Zanow and Rusty Thomas with Senator Pauline Hanson after she secured $8.9 million for the Ipswich Showgrounds construction project.
Ipswich Show Society’s Darren Zanow and Rusty Thomas with Senator Pauline Hanson after she secured $8.9 million for the Ipswich Showgrounds construction project.

Federal member for Blair Shayne Neumann described Rusty as “an icon” who was always “good for a yarn”.

“I liked and respected Rusty a great deal. He was a great champion for Ipswich and regional communities and was a terrific advocate for the showground redevelopment,” Mr Neumann said.

“I have appreciated his passion and fighting spirit. There will never be anyone like him again.”

State Member for Ipswich Jennifer Howard echoed Mr Neumann’s sentiment and said she was “devastated” by the news.

“It’s hard to imagine the show society, let alone the entire Ipswich community, without Rusty’s distinctive presence,” she said.

“I thank him for his enormous contribution. Community-minded people like Rusty are hard to come by.”

Rusty is survived by his wife Kay, son Mick, daughters Leoni and Sidone and grandchildren Blake, Georgie and Jack.

Read more news by Ebony Graveur.



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