A former member of parliament and farmer, Stuart McDonald is remembered for both his contributions across Victoria and his support for his community in the Rochester area.
Stuart Richard McDonald was born in Rochester in 1928 to Lily and Angus McDonald.
He was the eldest of three brothers — followed by Russ (deceased) and Murray.
From his earliest days at Timmering East Primary School, where he started in 1934, it was clear he would be an exceptional scholar.
In 1940, soon after the outbreak of World War II, Stuart arrived at Echuca High School for five years and then completed his secondary education in 1945 at University High School before entering tertiary education at the University of Melbourne.
He completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and then a Masters majoring in chemistry and metallurgy.
He worked at CSIRO for a short time and was a resident tutor at his alma mater’s Trinity College.
Like many of his generation who had come off the land, fate would intervene to change his life direction.
Stuart was preparing to relocate to the United Kingdom to do his PhD when his father became unwell and Stuart made the decision to forego his academic future and returned to Timmering to manage the family farm.
But there was a silver lining in this particular cloud — it was at this time he also met Barbara Sanders, from Birchip and teaching in Melbourne at the time, who in 1954 would become his wife and they would have three children (Marie, Ian and Fiona) after being married in Bendigo.
Back on the farm Stuart focused his considerable intellect on a new set of problems — becoming a successful irrigation farmer producing cereals, sunflowers, hay and beef cattle.
His son Ian said Stuart’s interest in the welfare of all farmers led to his involvement in the Australian Primary Producers Union and Victorian Farmers’ Union.
It stirred an early interest in politics and, with Country Party Federal Leader (and for 22 days Prime Minister following the disappearance of Harold Holt in 1967) ‘Black Jack’ McEwen as a next-door neighbour, his entry into the Country Party was a given.
Stuart entered the Victorian Legislative Council in 1967 and was later elected leader of the Country Party in the upper house. He held the office until 1979 when his Northern Province was abolished in an electoral review.
In 1982 he became the National Party’s Victorian president and then federal president from 1987 to 1990.
Stuart would also play a dynamic leadership role with the Rural Finance Corporation, which under his 12 years of guidance as its chairman, became a significant and vital player in the support of rural populations.
He had served as a director on the SPC board and in 1992, he chaired a committee reviewing the rural water industry in Victoria, which led to the ‘Future Management Review’, known thereafter as the ‘McDonald Report’.
In 2000, after 46 years of marriage, his wife Barbara died.
Three years later Stuart was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to agribusiness and to the Parliament of Victoria.
His service on the Rochester hospital board (mostly as deputy chair) was recognised with him twice being made a life governor.
He was also a life member of the National Party, an active and enthusiastic Rochester Lions Club member and in recent years transferred that energy to Probus.
Stuart died in Rochester on December 20, aged 89.
He is survived by his children Marie, Ian and Fiona and their partners Sandy, Ann and Tony, as well as his grandchildren Jessica, Thomas, Xenia and Angus.
A funeral service was held at Rochester Presbyterian Church on Thursday, December 28.