Clermont farewells a Big Fella

Chris ‘Big Fella’ Finnigan.
Chris ‘Big Fella’ Finnigan.

CLERMONT will say goodbye to one of its biggest friendly giants, Chris “Big Fella” Finnigan, on Saturday.

Chris died last Thursday from a suspected heart attack at Rio Tinto’s Clermont Mine.

He was found beside an excavator on-site after going into cardiac arrest and investigations are ongoing.

He was a man everybody knew and loved, his widow Roni told the Central Queensland News.

“Everybody called him Big Fella because he was the big guy with the big long beard,” Roni said.

“People would judge him when they first saw him but his big kind heart always won people over.”

Chris and Roni lived in Clermont for about seven years and owned the Commercial Hotel.

She said Chris was happiest when he was at the pub meeting people who may have been a bit shy at first, but soon began to trust the Big Fella.

“I s*!t my pants when I first met him, too,” Roni said.

“But he had lots of good advice for people and the best people skills.

“People could trust him. He never asked people to come to him but they always did.”

Despite moving away from Clermont a few years ago, Roni said she had been overwhelmed by the number of former neighbours calling with condolences.

Chris had been a fly in fly out to the mine for about the last year, where he worked as a bobcat operator.

“Look, I’ve had about 1,000,300 phone calls from people still up in Clermont,” she said.

“It’s unbelievable, but goes to show just how loved Chris really was.

“We’ll be having a memorial service in Clermont on Saturday morning so people can come and say goodbye.”

Narrowing down what the 59-year-old father of four would be remembered for the most was too difficult, Roni said, because he was involved in everything.

“He loved his family, his friends, and his cars,” she said.

“He just loved everyone and everything.”

Chris and Roni were together for 23 years and married for 16, which she said were the happiest days of her life.

Her son, Jake, said the world had last week lost one of its “kindest, most generous” people.

“Dad was just a wonderful, wonderful man,” Jake said.

“He touched so many people’s lives, and was touched by so many through their kindness.”

Rio Tinto Australia on Friday said emergency services who attended the site reported Chris was found in cardiac arrest.

“Rio Tinto Australia is saddened to advise that a worker at Clermont Mine in Central Queensland died yesterday,” a statement said.

“The cause of the death is being investigated by authorities.

“Rio Tinto Coal Australia is working to provide support to the deceased person’s family and workers at the site.”

The Clermont community is invited to attend the memorial service being held for Chris at the lagoon from 10am on Saturday.

“Chris would have said thanks so much,” Roni said.

“There are so many to thank but you all touched him and his life.”

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