Brian Mollet & Alan Close
Family and friends turned up in their hundreds last Saturday at Kohinur Hall to farewell and celebrate the life of much-loved Main Arm man Ian ‘Hoss’ Hosken, environmentalist and Byron Shire councillor from 1995 to 1999.
Hoss lost his battle with cancer on Thursday March 10, aged 65.
Much loved community elder, champion of progressive local politics, larrikin, landscaper, environmentalist, builder of fine drystone walls, sometime actor, get-down dancer, man of many sports and master of none, Hoss will be remembered as one of the most vibrant characters in a shire which isn’t short of character.
Stridently honest, plain speaking and passionate, Hoss embodied the idealism and energy which grew from the early years of hippie settlement in the 1970s and 80s and remains the foundation of the community spirit we enjoy in the Shire today.
Hoss and his sister Cheryl were raised in Melbourne and spent a happy childhood roaming free in the paddocks around their house in Glen Waverley.
He was a promising cricketer, Cheryl reports, and horse mad, spending all his free time at the trotting stables nearby. And while other boys were mucking around with marbles and slingshots in primary school it will be no surprise to those who knew him later in life that Hoss was already courting his first girlfriend.
Political even as a teenager, Hoss cut his activist teeth on the 1960s Vietnam Moratorium marches in Melbourne and after a false start as a trainee teacher hit the hippie trail to Asia. He arrived in Mullumbimby in 1979 and was a founding member of the Namara Tya community, carved from an old banana farm high in the hills behind Main Arm.
Like many early alternative settlers, Hoss built first one shed, then another while he slowly worked on the house, which remained his home until his death.
In these years he formed a long and loving relationship with Kaye Wearne. Their son Solai was born at Mullumbimby Hospital in 1980 and daughter Lani in the top shed at Namara Tya in 1984.
Hoss was a proud warrior for the environment. He played his flute in front of bulldozers in the Terania Creek logging protest in 1979 and was part of the Franklin River blockade in 1982.
He served as a Byron Shire councillor from 1995 to 1999. These were years of confrontation and division between pro-development and green factions and Hoss was never afraid to argue his views on environmental protection. Although he made political foes, it is also true that personally he lived as he died, a man without enemies.
Last to leave
Hoss was above all a people person, open, gregarious, generous and incapable of ill-feeling. If there was a party, Hoss was last to leave.
If there was work to do, he was first to arrive. If a friend was in need, he was close at hand. He loved and was loved by many women and one of his great life skills was the ability to maintain deep friendships with his ex-partners.
Hoss embraced a second family with Sue Davidson and her daughter Elle and in 2006, in search of the next adventure, Hoss and Sue moved to Japan to work in the ski fields and hopefully start an English language school. It was in Japan that Hoss was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2008. He and Sue returned to Australia for treatment and Hoss was eventually declared cancer free in 2009.
Fight with cancer
In September 2014, however, aggressive tumours were found in Hoss’s bowel. After initial surgery he made the decision to fight the cancer with lifestyle changes and natural therapies and for many months enjoyed an active, if quieter life. But his optimism and determination were not to be rewarded.
Hoss didn’t speak openly about dying. But it was the unspoken subtext of the hastily arranged 65th birthday party at his beloved Namara Tya only four days before his death. Hoss was propped on an outdoor divan under the mulberry tree in his garden, and his friends and loved ones listened in teary silence as he gave a brave speech alluding to what all knew – that this birthday would be the last.
He declined quickly and died peacefully at Mullumbimby Hospital with his family around him.
A quick glance at Facebook as word spread of Hoss’s passing reveals the depth and breadth of affection he engendered. Photos have been posted from around the world and across the decades.
He will be remembered as a man of integrity, loyalty, unwavering commitment to values of community and sustainability – and above all, laughter and fun.