‘PEOPLE need to act over asbestos’ was the parting plea of a retired builder who lost his battle against a slow-developing disease linked to the banned material on Christmas Eve.
Diagnosed in February 2010 and given six to 12 months to live, Barry Knowles (72), of Helena Valley, defied the odds to devote the last years of his life to raising funds towards finding a cure for the illness.
He became seriously ill in August last year after five years free of any symptoms of mesothelioma.
He shares his personal journey in a book called Reflections through Reality, also the name of his foundation. Supported by his wife Renee and four daughters, his legacy includes starting a support network for people with the disease.
His daughter Jo Morris became the operations manager of his foundation.
“Dad could be very determined; when he had a task to complete, he would take up the challenge and work hard to accomplish it,” said Ms Morris. “This was evidenced in his final years, as he took on the battle to find a cure for the insidious disease that plagued him.
“I believe he knew it would come too late for him but he was driven to make a difference for future sufferers.
“The passion Dad had for the cause was contagious; he will live on in so many of our hearts and memories, but also through the legacy he leaves in the foundation; I’m so proud of what he achieved.”
Among his many fundraising achievements was a walk from Kalgoorlie to Perth in 2012.
Fellow walkers were among several hundred mourners to attend his funeral service at Parkerville Baptist Church on Wednesday afternoon.
University of WA School of Medicine Professor Bruce Robinson paid tribute to the ‘miracle man’ who bravely fought to give hope to others by permitting doctors to learn from his case.
Mr Knowles and his foundation presented $50,000 in September towards research into finding a cure at the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases in Perth.
Professor Robinson said the generosity of the foundation would support clinical trials into vaccine treatments to stimulate an immune attack on the cancer caused by mesothelioma.
Together with the Rotary Club of Esperance and donations from families affected by mesothelioma, the Rotary Club of Perth club helped raise much of the money for the foundation.
Perth president Stephen Inouye said in his eulogy that knowing Mr Knowles and his family had been a privilege.
“Having seen firsthand Barry’s commitment, dedication, unyielding resolve and determination to set up a legacy, which will no doubt directly impact the lives of countless others for years to come was a revealing look at his character.”