Devastated family farewells sailor
A SIMPLE wreath of native flowers and a sailor’s cap topped Able Seaman Jay Wilkie’s White Ensign-shrouded coffin, as his comrades carried him to his final farewell yesterday.
About 150 friends and more than 30 navy sailors came to offer their support for the devastated Bundaberg family at the full naval funeral, held at the Bundaberg Bible Chapel.
AB Wilkie was found dead in his cabin on September 14 on HMAS Launceston, while it was docked in Darwin. The cause of his death is not yet known.
“Every parent’s worst nightmare is the loss of a loved child,” his mother, Karen Bailey, told the mourners.
Tears flowed freely at the service, but stories shared by the family highlighted the cook’s larrikin spirit.
But the final farewells were too much, with AB Wilkie’s sister Keira becoming overwrought with emotion as she stood to speak.
Younger brother Jordan showed his love by playing a piece of music he had written for AB Wilkie on the saxophone.
In a statement released by the family, Mrs Bailey said her son had two families — his biological family and his extended family in the navy.
“His mates will be suffering, as we are suffering, and our hearts go out to them, together with our appreciation and thanks that we could celebrate Jay’s life together,” she said.
AB Wilkie’s former commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Steve Woodland, said the sailor was well known for his personality and willingness to do anything.
Lt Cmdr Woodland said AB Wilkie had recently volunteered for operational duty on HMAS Launceston after one of the ship’s cooks requested leave for family reasons.
“With Jay we didn’t get a cook, we got a chef,” he said.
“I couldn’t pronounce some of the food these guys were preparing for us. It was like living in a MasterChef kitchen.”
As a part of the navy’s farewell, his colleagues performed a three-volley salute before the casket was escorted out by his pallbearers, who struggled to keep in their emotion.
AB Wilkie’s mother and father were each presented with a flag and sailor’s cap.