A “devastated” Patti Newton says she missed being by the bedside of her beloved husband, Bert, in the moments before he died on Saturday night.
The four-time gold Logie award-winning entertainer, who had a leg amputated in May this year due to a life-threatening infection, died at a private clinic in Melbourne.
See some of Bert’s best moments in a tribute in the video player above
On Sunday morning, Patti – standing alongside her granddaughters Eva and Lola, briefed reporters outside the Newton’s family home in Hawthorn East about their final moments together.
“It’s very, very devastating. All our hearts are breaking because he was just the most wonderful man,” she said.
“I left at ten past seven, and I was just pulling around to come into my drive and I get the call to say he’d taken his last breath at 7.22pm.
“So I missed him, but maybe he didn’t want me to be there for his last breath.
“He had such a fabulous attitude. And he gave us so much joy right up to the end.”
‘Maybe he didn’t want me to be there for his last breath.’
Patti heaped praise her husband’s attitude, particularly in the latter stages of his life.
“All he could talk about was things that he had in mind,’’ Patti said.
“’I’d be good at that, I wonder how I’d go at doing Eddie’s show if ever he wants to take a break’” she recalled Bert as saying.
“And I used to laugh, because I’d think ‘you’re 83, you’ve got one leg, how would you go up and down the stairs?’
“But I love that attitude of his, he was never going to give up and that’s what we have to take with us, don’t we girls?
“We have to just make sure that the love he gave us stays with us forever.”
Patti also told of how her daughter, Lauren, and granddaughter, Eva, were out to dinner when Patti had to make the difficult phone call.
“I rang and poor Eva had to come, she didn’t go in, we felt that was too much for her,” Patti said on Sunday.
“I can’t get that out of my mind, really, but I have to think that he’s at peace and he’s not in pain.
“Eva and Lola (Bert’s granddaughters), both the loves of his life.”
Earlier on Sunday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed Patti had accepted an offer to hold a state funeral for the Aussie entertainment legend.
“Bert Newton was an icon, a larrikin and a born entertainer,” Andrews said.
“We have never known TV without Bert – he was there from the beginning. From black and white to colour – as TV changed, Bert endured.
“We will all have an opportunity to honour his memory, his talent and his achievements at a state funeral – details will be shared in the coming days.”
Patti said Bert would have loved a state funeral.
“I said yes to a state funeral because as I said, a little boy from North Fitzroy and having success in show business and having all these wonderful accolades go his way,’’ Patti said.
“And then a state funeral — Bert would love it. His mum and his sister, they would be so thrilled — and I’m thrilled for him.
“It’ll be very nice and it’s a wonderful gesture because he’s very Melbourne, Bert.
Even though he’s worked in all different states, Melbourne was his state and his love so that was a very nice thing.”
Bert Newton tributes
The news of Newton’s passing sparked a widespread outpouring of grief from high-profile entertainers and politicians.
“Australian TV wouldn’t be what it is without Bert,” comedian Adam Hills tweeted.
“It’s up to us all to take what he taught us, and keep his spirit alive.”
Fellow comedian Rove McManus said in a tweet he was heartbroken.
“I don’t know that I’m ready to accept this yet. Today I lost a mentor and friend, our country lost an icon, but most importantly a family has lost their hero and soul mate,” McManus said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Newton “was from the golden era of television when we all seemed to watch the same thing”.
“There was a familiarity that connected us to Bert, but it also connected us to each other. We could laugh together. That was his gift,” he said.
“Bert could give and take a joke. He could laugh at himself, I’m sure that’s what made Australians warm to him as much as we did. Even when a joke misfired, he had that ability to scramble in a way that made us laugh, and put everyone at ease.”
Melbourne-born Newton started in the radio business aged 12 and scaled the heights of Australian entertainment on stage and screen.
Alongside Graham Kennedy and Don Lane he was part of a trio known as the kings of Australian television.
His TV credits include In Melbourne Tonight, The Graham Kennedy Show, The Don Lane Show, Good Morning Australia, New Faces, Bert’s Family Feud, and 20 to 1.
On stage he played roles in the musicals Wicked, Annie, Grease and as narrator in The Rocky Horror Show.
Newton is survived by his wife of more than 46 years, Patti, children Lauren and Matthew, plus grandchildren.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Australia has “lost an icon”.
“My heart goes out to his family who have lost a husband, a father and friend,” he tweeted.
Former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett also paid tribute among the torrent of condolences.
“Providing laughter and joy, and generosity for so many good causes. Patti, we are thinking of you and your family,” he said on Twitter.
– with AAP
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