When Shoalhaven doctor Kate Manderson purchased a stunning portrait of Victoria Cross recipient Keith Payne at this year’s Digger Day Ball, little did she know it would lead to a meeting with the legendary Australian.
Dr Manderson, who owns the Worrigee Street Medical Centre, claimed the George Petrou produced work at auction, actually outbidding Mr Payne’s own doctor Peter Worth for the coveted painting of Australia's oldest VC recipient.
Dr Manderson paid $11,500 for the superb portrait which now holds pride of place in her Nowra surgery’s waiting room.
“It’s worth every cent,” she said.
“I love what the Digger Day concept is all about, helping our returned service men and women,” she said.
“Especially those with mental health issues. I’m a big supporter of anything that helps our veterans and provides better care.
“I was in a position to bid on the artwork and I saw it as an opportunity to support Digger Day and the work it is doing.
“I love what the organisation stands for and it was right to step up and support its continued activities.”
Dr Manderson said she had hoped to meet Mr Payne on the night of the Digger Day Ball, but the spritely veteran had taken a tumble, badly cutting his hand, injuring his wrist and was unwell.
“It would have been nice to meet Keith but it wasn’t to be,” she said.
“Rick (Digger Day Chairman Rick Meehan) contacted me and said Keith would be in town and would I like to meet him?” she said.
“Would I ever!”
Dr Manderson owns four medical practices in the Shoalhaven and also has a military background.
A Royal Australian Navy reservist, she has the rank of Commander.
In fact, her practise has a real military feel with two other RAN reservists, Lieutenant Jess Cusunamo and LEUT Tony Schiemer also part of her team.
It was interesting to see the reaction of some of the patients in the waiting room who were actually looking at the portrait when Keith Payne VC walked in.
As per usual, he stopped and chatted to couple Les and Aileen Carroll, greeting Mr Carroll with his customary “G’day Cobber - how you going?”
Mr Carroll said the meeting was “pretty special”.
“Well, we definitely didn’t expect that when we came to the doctors today,” he said.
“We were looking at the portrait saying how wonderful it was and the next thing, there he is in person next to us.”
“That was pretty special.”
The man himself says the painting depicts “a very different Keith Payne”.
The original photograph, which is actually one of his wife Flo’s favourites, was taken after he had been awarded the Victoria Cross in Vietnam, and had returned to Australia and was based at Duntroon in Canberra where he was an instructor.
”I’ve changed a hell of a lot since then,” he said.
“I had that million mile stare.
“I’m an improved model - I’ve more placid - I’ve been civilianised,” he says with a cheeky grin.