A WHO'S who of the region's business, property, political and yachting worlds were among the 700 mourners at Christ Church Cathedral yesterday for the funeral of Ernest George Keegan, who died last week aged 80.
Mr Keegan who went by his second name, George became a household name when he wrested the state seat of Newcastle from the ALP for a single term in 1988.
He was already well-known as a real estate agent and spent much of his time after politics in establishing the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club at Wickham.
But as two of his closest friends, pharmacist Ron Roberts and concrete businessman Tom Michilis, showed in their tributes during the service, there were sides to Mr Keegan that were less well-known.
Mr Keegan's first job after leaving Newcastle High was designing and building furniture.
He was a gifted caricaturist and artist, and one of his pen-and-ink drawings was on display during the service.
He also loved cooking, and the service finished with "one of George's best recipes Pa's minestrone soup".
Mr Roberts credited Terry Lawler and the late Clem Varley as major figures in the group of business figures who persuaded Mr Keegan to stand for parliament.
A sometimes tearful Mr Michilis told how Mr Keegan devoted the last decade of his life to the yacht club.
"The yacht club became his passion," Mr Michilis said.
The service began with Mr Keegan's granddaughters Georgie Tomkins and Eloise Keegan lighting a candle and placing a cross on the coffin. It ended with his daughters, Denise Tomkins and Michelle Parker, singing "Hey there, Georgy Boy" to the Seekers' tune, Georgy Girl.