Liverpool in Sydney has lost one of its most colourful characters with the death of Bernardo “Benny” Avila reports Simone Roberts in the Liverpool Leader (13/1). Benny was a living example of an immigrant who loves Australia and the Australian Flag.
She said that in his wheelchair decorated with Australian flags, Mr Avila was a regular fixture at the entrance to Westfield Liverpool for the past 22 years, collecting money for charity.
Ms. Roberts' report continues:
The Chilean-born immigrant, well known for his hat collection from all corners of the globe, would travel from his Moorebank home to Westfield in his motorised wheelchair every day, often narrowly avoiding traffic accidents.
His wife of almost 40 years Jenny laughed and said: “He used to take off on the roads here and he just expected the parting of the traffic – like the parting of the red sea.”
She said Mr Avila took delight in chatting to shoppers and offering advice. “He had a passion for people and a passion for life,” she said.
…comfort to people…
“He loved interacting with people of different nationalities, learning how to greet them in their own native tongue, and he could relate to anyone from anywhere on the social scale.”
Mrs Avila said his dynamic personality and positive attitude rubbed off on others. “He was a comfort to people who thought that life had dealt them a bad hand.
“His attitude was ‘life is for living, don’t let things get on top of you.’ That’s what his legacy should be.”
Mr Avila “lived for Liverpool” and was something of a local celebrity.
He has featured in exhibitions on the city, has had a portrait commissioned of him, and a Facebook fan page dedicated to That man in the motorised wheelchair at the door of Liverpool Westfields has close to 9000 followers.
One fan commented: “He is a legend. A familiar face and always has a happy smile, makes me think when I go through my problems in life they are nothing.”
Mrs Avila said the recognition meant a lot to her husband.
Mr Avila died last week aged 70. His funeral was held at St. Luke’s Liverpool. He is survived by his widow Jenny, daughter Deborah, and six grandchildren.