John Villiers was born an Englishman in 1912 but became a proud Australian, and more importantly, in his later years became a proud Central Queenslander. To his family and his Melbourne friends, he was known as John Villiers, but in Queensland he was affectionately known as Jack Villiers.
John never married but he made many friends in many places. He lived a simple life, but behind his quiet modesty laid great qualities – a sincere caring gentleman and a generous man to those in need.
John came from proud family backgrounds. His mother was a daughter of the wealthy Melbourne property owner, George E. Porter, and his English father was an officer of the P&O Steamship Company.
John attended school in London, and at age 15 decided to enter the exciting maritime industry, like his father. He won a P&O scholarship and spent two years at the Training College on the Thames, followed by a three year apprenticeship on P&O ships to the Far East and Australia.
During the Great Depression and with his family now residing in Australia, he worked as an Able Seaman around the Australian coast until 1934 when he decided to try his luck on the land.
His first job was as a jackaroo on his uncle’s farm near Stanthorpe, Queensland, after which he worked on several large Queensland stations until the outbreak of World War II when he joined the 26th Battalion, later transferring to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1941. After his discharge from the RAAF, John returned to the land and eventually purchased a 300 acre farm on the north coast of Queensland between Mackay and Sarina where he ran cattle for beef and milk for many years.
In 1966, John decided to retire to the coastal town of Yeppoon, east of Rockhampton where he spent 16 happy years. In 1982 he moved to Rockhampton but returned to Yeppoon in January 2000 to live at the Capricorn Adventist Retirement Village where he died peacefully on 11 July 2002, 37 days short of his 90th birthday.
His graveside service at the Yeppoon Cemetery on 16 July 2002 was attended by many friends. The cover of the program for the service most aptly had the caption “A True Gentleman”, and showed a hearty photograph of John with sleeves rolled up and raising his big Akubra hat in a final farewell to us all.
The story of John (Jack) Villiers could have ended with his death but for the fact that he bequeathed his estate of approximately $6.75 million solely for the benefit of charities working in Queensland. Although John was always modest about his family background, he had been a beneficiary of inherited wealth through his mother, Mary Ida Porter, and it was this which assisted him in accumulating the capital which now forms the basis of The John Villiers Trust. In his Will he left the whole of his estate to form a philanthropic Trust in perpetuity to benefit charitable organisations which seek to assist and improve the lives of Queenslanders. As a result, The John Villiers Trust was established in late 2002. Today, the Trust is valued at $21.5million (as at June 2020) and the bulk of the income derived is given away.