A tribute to Lucas Dowell who made life better before his tragic death at Wantabadgery near Junee

Telling a child that Daddy isn’t coming home would have to be the hardest thing in the world. 

Telling six-year-old twins who adored the hero dad that lit up their world like a campfire against a black night, borders on the unbearable.

FAMILY: Lucas "Luke" Dowell and his "diamonds": twins Stella and Angus and soulmate Kerrie Stewart

FAMILY: Lucas "Luke" Dowell and his "diamonds": twins Stella and Angus and soulmate Kerrie Stewart

But the family and loved ones of Lucas James Dowell are made of tougher stuff, and despite the searing agony, they will kick it off like the dust Luke knew too well, and carry on.

A born-and-bred Gundagai son, he was known as Luke 99 percent of the time, and “Lucas!” when in trouble; but just a twinkle of his eye and all would be fixed; he was a diamond amongst the rabble of decent blokes he kicked around with, and a master of horses.

From Gundagai South to Gundagai High, Luke then travelled the rodeo circuit as a bull rider from the age of 16.

But heart-stopping bull-riding became merely tame when compared to how he felt when he laid eyes on a pretty blonde from Harden with smiling eyes. 

Her name was Kerrie Stewart and she was 18.

They fell in love, moved to Wagga and have been soulmates ever since. Luke was a goner, and he was fine with that.

His passion was horses and he had that ethereal connection many want, but few ever have.

There was nothing rough or old school about his horsemanship; just gentle horse whispering which came in handy after years doing track work in Wagga, before a stint as a roofer made way for his own farrier business in Gundagai in the footsteps of his great grandfather Bill Crane.

Luke travelled the region and impressed the horse community with his easy-going nature, ready smile and skill, which included saddlery and leatherwork. 

A passion that enamoured Luke was the heroism of the Australian Light Horse and the bushranger era.

As a director of the Australian Light Horse Association and President of the local 7th Light Horse Troop, he was front and centre of the action; locals laugh recalling the time he rode his beloved stallion Peppy into the Boorowa Hotel to have a beer.

“He had a wonderful way of working the crowd,” said best mate Wes Leseberg.

“Telling a joke or yarn or even holding them up with a mock robbery. The community of Gundagai and surrounding areas are hurting at the news of Luke’s death,” Mr Leseberg said.

The mate you wanted around; the baby brother you bossed around but loved more than life; the son that warmed your heart and greyed your hairs; Luke was all these, but his biggest love was Kerrie.

SOULMATES: Lucas "Luke" Dowell and his soulmate of 17 years and mother of their 6-year-old twins, Kerrie Stewart

SOULMATES: Lucas "Luke" Dowell and his soulmate of 17 years and mother of their 6-year-old twins, Kerrie Stewart

Enter his “diamonds”; twins Angus and Stella and life was complete. Now six, Stella has already started pony club and is “a gun little rider” just like her daddy.

But this bright light suddenly went out when his upturned ute was found on the River Road at Wantabadgery. He was heading home Tuesday night but never arrived.

Kerrie was one of the first to know.

Kerrie and Luke had only recently bought the small property they’d been renting for several years.

“Kerrie is devastated and his kids are still comprehending what has happened,” Mr Leseberg said.

When it comes to understanding the loss of someone who made life better just by being near, they’re not alone in asking, “why?”

A donation account has been set up on Facebook called, the Kerrie Stewart Support Page which has details of a trust account set up with the Bendigo Bank Gundagai.