Aboriginal and Torres Strait readers are advised that this story contains the name and image of a deceased person.
There has been a deluge of tributes since the passing on Saturday of Stuart Fergie, known to thousands of Oka fans as DidgeriStu.
Fergie contracted COVID early in January and was immediately hit very hard by the virus. Fergie’s wife Bonnie said in a GoFundMe post that he unexpectedly developed major critical issues with his lungs. ‘Within hours he was rushed to hospital to be assessed and was immediately transferred to the Gold Coast Covid ICU where the extent of his lung damage is extremely worse than expected, thankfully the great team there worked hard to stabilize him and are continuing on keeping him with us as he’s in a critical state.’
An update at the end of January said that on Thursday, January 27, Fergie’s breathing became very difficult, even with 100 per cent oxygen support. ‘Because of this, he was put into a medically induced coma so that his breathing could be assisted through intubation and the hook up to some other amazing life-support technology.’
On Saturday DidgeriStu lost the fight and slipped away.
Tribute from a friend
Friend, long-time supporter and Double J Stir It Up presenter Sarah Howells paid tribute to the unique musician. ‘One of the kindest, most gentle, generous souls I have ever known left this world this morning.
‘He’s been battling Covid in ICU for well over a month. Every day I’ve watched those “died with Covid” statistics wishing he wouldn’t be one of them.’
Ms Howells said she met Fergie close to 20 years ago at a festival. ‘We have weaved in and out of each other’s lives since then. Gigs, catching up at his place in Yaroomba, radio interviews, hugs, dancing, and real conversations. I actually can’t encapsulate just how wonderful he was in words right now. That smile! He’d light up a room!
‘Over the years people have asked who my favourite band of all time is, and I think my answer has been an unexpected one.
Listened to a million times
‘The one band that I have listened to a million times and never got sick of their music, is OKA.’
Ms Howells said that her father, musician Martin Howells who sadly passed away last year, must have really wanted a decent yidaki player for his band. ‘I’ve been telling him for weeks he can’t have Stu yet, but here we are. Dad and Stu always had a huge mutual respect for each other. It was really lovely. Stu was part of my family.
‘At least he’s not battling anymore, but the intensity to which he will be missed is strong. I love you brother.’
A GoFundMe page initially set up to help the family during Fergie’s recovery, surpassed its goal since the musician died. Donations can still be added to the fund.