OBITUARY: Nature’s gentleman and a man for all seasons

Peter Rice with Garth Dale when Peter was presented with Life Membership BDOFS. Image supplied.
Peter Rice with Garth Dale when Peter was presented with Life Membership BDOFS. Image supplied.

Dedicated teacher, passionate gardener, keen bushwalker, seasoned traveller, nature’s gentleman – the late Peter Rice was all of these and more.

Peter, who was well known to Canungra locals as Secretary of the Beaudesert and District Orchid Society, passed away on 8 June 2023, aged 80.

Peter was born in Brisbane in 1943 and lived at Coopers Plains, then one of the outer southern suburbs of Brisbane. Times were simple and few people then owned cars. 

Canungra Law

His home was next to his grandparents and great grandparents. Between them, they had about an acre of land where Peter learnt to keep animals such as goats, chickens and cows, and grow vegetables, almost certainly a precursor to the many interests he was to develop later in life.

He spent his free time exploring the bush and swimming in the local Stable Swamp Creek. Like his friends, he was allowed to frequent these areas without his parents being unduly concerned about his safety.

As a schoolboy Peter enjoyed playing football and cricket, with his robust build equipping him to excel as a natural Rugby Union lock and second rower during his secondary education at St Laurence’s College in Brisbane.

After finishing school, he attended Kelvin Grove Teachers College to become a primary school teacher and following graduation enjoyed a short stint teaching at Dunwich State School on Stradbroke Island. 

This marked the beginning of a lifelong career in education which included teaching posts at Coopers Plains State School for 25 years and at Sherwood State School. 

Peter’s impact at Coopers Plains was immense in and out of the classroom. 

He co-founded the school’s native tree planting program and established a school bush house to keep plants for the children. He also became coordinator of the school’s camping program, taking children on camps to places such as Bunya Mountains, Binna Burra and Girraween.

His love of sport was never far away and he coached the school’s soccer, cricket and football teams. 

All the students knew Peter’s booming voice, enthusiasm, laughter and loveable eccentricity. 

Following his transfer to Sherwood State School he continued to be active within the school community, organising environmental excursions, running stalls at the school fete and editing school magazines. 

Peter Rice with his dog Bandita at one of the Beaudesert & District Orchid Society’s Shows held in Canungra.  Image supplied.

When Peter retired from teaching, he felt that after nearly 39 years it was time to focus on all the things he loved while he was still fit and reasonably young. 

He moved himself, his elderly mother, and dogs Sebastian and Snowy to acreage at Cedar Vale and set about making a new life; he never stopped being busy.

He joined the Jimboomba Garden Society and became Treasurer, a position he occupied for 19 years.

He had an immeasurable impact on the Beaudesert Orchid and Foliage Society in his capacity as Secretary for 12 years, procuring sponsors and co-ordinating the club’s annual orchid shows which were held in the Canungra School of Arts Hall. 

He was awarded Life Membership of the Society in November 2022.

As a member of the Logan and Beaudesert Bushwalkers Club, he averaged 30 walks a year, as well as writing synopses of the walks for the club.

Peter travelled extensively around Australia during retirement, undertaking numerous 4WD drive trips, including south to Tasmania, north to Torres Strait and west to Uluru.

At home, his acreage allowed him to establish ever increasing orchid and fern bush houses and build extensive native gardens, arbours, and gazebos. 

He loved hosting barbecues and lunches for his friends and fellow clubmates.

Last year Peter was diagnosed with cancer, which he fought with stoicism. 

Even in the last days of his life he was optimistic that he would prevail and never burdened his friends with the magnitude of his circumstances.