Former Shire of Katanning president Phil Rae is being remembered as an “entertaining character” with an adventurous streak after his death at the age of 60. Phil Rae died unexpectedly in Balladonia on February 12 while returning home to meet his new grandson after a stint sailing overseas. It was a sad ending to an adventurous life, which started in Katanning in 1961. Mr Rae was the first child of Norman and Jessie Rae of Greenhill Estate and would later be joined by siblings Marian, Glenda and Eric. Marian Rae said she had fond memories of their shared childhood, recalling the mischief they would get up to with their younger siblings. “I remember lots of great times in the paddock, playing games around old trees and trying to work out ways of not going home even when Eric was saturated after falling in a hole of water and it was winter, and he was only four-years-old,” Ms Rae said. “We had lots of fun together but we weren’t always as kind to our little brother and sister as we could have been.” Ms Rae said she would often emulate Phil and try to play with his friends in primary school even though her brother had figured out it “wasn’t cool”. “Anything Phil did, I wanted to do too,” she said. “He joined the local cubs and played football and I was horrified that I wasn’t allowed to do these things as well.” Although Mr Rae attended Katanning Primary School, he was soon sent to boarding school at Wesley College in South Perth. While Mr Rae was attending Wesley, he continued with the scouting he had started in primary school, eventually becoming an Venturer and also obtaining a gold Duke of Edinburugh Award, which was presented to him by Prince Charles. After school, Mr Rae studied at Muresk Agricultural College. He spent part of his 20s living in New South Wales before later moving back to the family property in Katanning. It was once he was back in Katanning and had settled down that his two children Jancey and Boyd were born. In 2001, at the age of 40, he became a Shire of Katanning councillor before being promoted to president two years later. It would be a position he would hold until the 2009 local government election. Current Shire President Liz Guidera said Mr Rae had a particularly strong relationship with former shire chief executive officer Brian Jones during his tenure. “They were both smart and smart arses, direct and didn’t suffer fools, and because of that they probably weren’t the most popular dynamic leadership duo in the region,” Ms Guidera said. “But they always had the best interests of the community at heart and they got things done. They just didn’t like the stuffing around to get from here to there.” Although Mr Rae was the longest serving Shire President in more than 35 years, two out of three of his elections came down to a tied vote on the night, meaning he won the position by getting his name drawn out of a hat. “One of those times was so memorable it hit the Inside Cover of The West Australian,” Ms Guidera said. Another memorable moment of his tenure was when Mr Rae, Mr Jones, Richard Kowald and Wayne Sergeant won the 2008 Local Government Golf Tournament in Dongara. “It would be fair to say, that when they won, Phil gave one of the worst speeches ever ... and they took the microphone off him in the end,” Ms Guidera said. Ms Guidera said one of Mr Rae’s biggest unrecognised achievements was the work he put into getting the new Katanning Saleyards off the ground, including many trips to Perth to meet with stakeholders. “Most people don’t understand the amount of work he and others put in for many years before the magic funding announcement was made,” she said. After politics, he turned his attention to boating, having told his sister Marian he had wanted to go sailing around the world since his 20s after spending time on a yacht with his uncle in Newcastle. “I had no idea why he wanted to buy a bloody big boat and sail off,” Marian said. “It was apparent at this stage that Phil liked a beer or six so I thought he was slightly mad. I thought he would sail off, down a few Crownies and fall overboard somewhere, never to be seen again.” Friend and Vicsail director Brendan Hunt first met the late Mr Rae at the Mandurah Boat Show close to a decade ago. He described Mr Rae was a kindred spirit. “He was just a good and very real person, one of the more complex yet thoroughly uncomplicated people you could ever meet,” he said. “His was also pragmatic - he considered this massive sailing boat (he purchased), usually crewed with five people, to be just like any other large piece of farm machinery.” Mr Rae spent most of his final years travelling the world in his vessel named ‘Creekside’, departing Newcastle and sailing onwards to Thailand, Turkey and the Mediterranean. Mr Hunt caught up with Mr Rae just weeks before his death in Sydney. “He talked of driving to WA and meet a grandchild, perhaps mend a few personal ‘bridges’, doing some modifications to his shed, and maybe building another one,” Mr Hunt said. “That he did not make it back to his family in Katanning is just a sad final epitaph.” A memorial service was held for Mr Rae on February 26. He is survived by his mother, three siblings, children Jancey and Boyd and his grandson Hudson.