In a sad loss before Anzac Day, former Mount Isa second world war veteran Frank Koitka has passed away aged 98.
Mr Koitka fought in the 2/9th battalion of the 18th brigade in Papua New Guinea during the war, participating in the battle for Buna and Sanananda in 1942-43 following the successful defence of the Kokoda Track.
Speaking to the North West Star over 70 years later, Mr Koitka said he knew when he went that it was not going to be a picnic.
"It was frightening and I knew that we had to be extremely well alert to what was going on," Mr Koitka.
"No soldier wanted to accidentally wander off from the other troops. That was the great fear. Of being left behind somewhere in the jungle."
Mr Koitka said they kept tobacco on them to be used to trade with the natives, to guide them if lost ahd a kind native carried him for days to a field hospital for treatment after he was injured with shrapnel in his chest and a broken back.
"They put me in a hospital tent with four Japs, I thought 'Christ, if I get out of this I'd be bloody lucky. They were all smiling at me and I thought 'which one of these is going to kill me?" he said.
Mr Koitka was discharged in 1943, suffering from malaria, and returned to live in Mount Isa. He took on a trade as a mechanic but he continued to suffer from fevers. It was not too long before he saw a photograph of his sister-in-law's sister, Patricia Hayes and knew he would marry her.
Patricia eventually moved to Mount Isa and within half an hour of her being in town he casually visited her, still in his work clothes.
"I'm going to marry you," he told her while she was having a cup of tea.
"Over my dead body," she retorted.
They were married for 56 years and had five children together. Next to the house that he built in Marian Street was the car mechanics business he started with Harry Maison - K&M Motors.
Then in the 1970s Mr Koitka built a retirement boat 57 feet and three inches long, made of ferro-concrete, the reason being "it was nice and dry".
"It used to be a tourist attraction. They called to me, 'Noah, when's the rain starting?"
Mr Koitka retired when he was 76.
"I just loved my work. I could not sit around much until I got sick. That put an end to me," he said.
After being a mainstay of the Mount Isa Anzac Day parade for many years he moved to Adelaide in 2016 where he died peacefully on April 14 surrounded by family.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend his funeral at Sunset Lawn Cemetery at 11am Tuesday, April 30.