FAMILY MAN: Rhonda Van Ansem-Brooker, her grandchildren Joe and Jess with Tony Van Ansem enjoying family time.
FAMILY MAN: Rhonda Van Ansem-Brooker, her grandchildren Joe and Jess with Tony Van Ansem enjoying family time.

Remembering a much-loved man with many tales

THE world would be a simpler place if it was run by Anthony "Tony” Van Ansem.

He lived his life by three mottos: K.I.S.S - keep it simple stupid, the two cs- compromise and communicate, and "no complaints, no regrets, that's life”.

His widow, second wife Rhonda Van Ansem-Brooker, will now practice these theories as she begins a life without her "loving, generous and caring” husband.

Mr Van Ansem lived a life filled with more chapters than most people would realise, according to Mrs Van Ansem-Brooker.

For the last 20 years, Mrs Van Ansem-Brooker learned stories of his past, while making new memories, which would become his last.

"He used to tell me a lot, it's hard to remember it all,” Mrs Van Ansem-Brooker said.

"I said to him one day, 'Tony, you ought to write a book', but he never got around to it.”

Mr Van Ansem fit multiple lifetimes worth of experience into his 82 years.

Born in Holland during war times, Mr Van Ansem hid in potato bunkers to escape exploding shells on the farm when he was a child.

Tony Van Ansem developed a love for machinery at a young age.
Tony Van Ansem developed a love for machinery at a young age.

Mr Van Ansem shared his childhood memories of watching German Panzer Tanks roll past the farm, and arriving at school to a roof covered in canvas after being sprayed by bullets overnight.

Holland was also the place where Mr Van Ansem developed his work ethic and passion for mechanics.

"He liked to be busy, he wasn't one to sit still, he didn't like watching television,” Mrs Van Ansem-Brooker said.

"He always wanted to be doing things.”

As a teenager, Mr Van Ansem qualified as a machinist and developed skills he used for the rest of his life.

"He'd build bikes for kids, he'd get old bikes from the dump, fix them and give them to kids coming down the street,” Mrs Van Ansem-Brooker said.

When Mr Van Ansem was 17, his family decided to immigrate to Australia. The move was the only time Mr Van Ansem travelled between countries - he called Australia home ever since.

Mrs Van Ansem-Brooker said her husband was a knowledgeable man, once referred to as a "walking encyclopedia”, Mr Van Ansem was known for being a wise man.

Tony Van Ansem now lives on in the memories of his friends and family.
Tony Van Ansem now lives on in the memories of his friends and family.

One of his parting pieces of advice for Mrs Van Ansem-Brooker was to keep busy.

"He said 'get on with your life, don't dwell on it',” Mrs Van Ansem-Brooker said.

Keeping busy was a practice Mr Van Ansem did his whole life.

Since arriving in Australia Mr Van Ansem lived in Melbourne, Townsville and Mount Isa, before re-joining his family in the Lockyer Valley, a place he called home for the rest of his life.

Mr Van Ansem originally returned to help his father repair their Lake Clarendon farm in the aftermath of the floods, but in that time he met his first wife, Joyce Quade, who he went on to marry.

Mr Van Ansem moved to a farm at Lower Tent Hill with Joyce, and together they had three children, Debbie, Paul and Gavin.

While Mr Van Ansem followed in the footsteps of his farming family for a few years, it wasn't too long before he returned to pursuing his love for mechanics.

He was employed by late Gatton businessman John O'Brien to deliver fuel to farmers, which gave him his daily dose of socialising with the many people he delivered to.

Mrs Van Ansem-Brooker said Mr Van Ansem loved talking to everyone he met.

"He was a very friendly man, he always wanted to know how everyone else was going instead of talking about himself,” she said.

His job as a fuel delivery driver also allowed him to forge a lasting connection with the O'Brien family.

Neale O'Brien said he can remember doing the fuel run with Mr Van Ansem on his school holidays.

"He was one of the nicest blokes you could ever meet,” Mr O'Brien said.

"He was a dedicated family man and he did anything for you.

"He treated me and my brothers like we were one of his.”

When Mr O'Brien was older he began working for his father John, which had him working alongside Mr Van Ansem on most days.

"We worked side by side, not a week went past where Tony didn't do something for us,” he said.

While Mr Van Ansem went on to pursue a career in insurance and then bus driving, Mr O'Brien said he always found time to visit the O'Briens.

"He used to come in nearly every day and him and I used to sit together and talk about everything,” Mr O'Brien said.

Mr Van Ansem was also heavily involved in the community and was instrumental in the placement of Lake Apex and establishing the local BMX club.

He was a Justice of the Peace for 40 years and was devoted to helping others right up until the end.

Mr Van Ansem took his final breath on March 21, after a three-month battle following a lawn mower incident.

He will be missed by his close and extended family.


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