Steve “the hat” Andrew
Steve “the hat” Andrew

He survived Cyclone Debbie only to sadly lose cancer battle

THE man who for a while in March was the face of Cyclone Debbie in Airlie Beach has been commemorated.

Steve "the hat" Andrew, as he was affectionately known in the Whitsunday community, lost a mercifully short battle with cancer.

During Cyclone Debbie Steve had watched the house next-door to him "explode", lost his roof and most of his possessions, been frightened for his life and thought he may have come out of it with a broken hand.

"I went through (Cyclone) Ului - that was nothing, but this was scary, super scary. I've never been that scared in my life," he said, in the immediate aftermath of the event.

"There is one room that is not wet. The rest of it's unliveable - you can just poke your finger through the wall - it's saturated."

Steve Andrew playing his beloved harmonica.
Steve Andrew playing his beloved harmonica. Shirley Wodson Photography

But even in the face of such adversity, Steve's first thoughts weren't for himself.

He spent the initial days post Cyclone Debbie sourcing food and water for a pop-up emergency hospital in Cannonvale and visited friends in need including single mums "the ones who don't have a bloke around to do things".

"And it's amazing how many of us have actually gone round and checked on these vulnerable people," he said.

"That's what happens in this community - we're all making sure everybody else is ok, then we move on to what we've got to deal with."

Famously photographed in the act by Courier Mail photographer Liam Kidston, an image of Steve, for once minus his trademark Panama hat, is what made him the face of Cyclone Debbie as the aftermath stories broke.

It was this image and the accompanying story by Whitsunday Times editor Sharon Smallwood that made the pages of News Regional Media's recently published 'Defying Debbie' cyclone tribute book, the proceeds of which are being donated to cyclone relief.

Grab your copy of Defying Debbie from a participating newsagency or by calling 1300 361 604 to order direct over the phone (open between 8am-5pm Monday to Friday). Please note a $4 postage fee applies for phone orders. 

Ms Smallwood said it was fitting to see Steve Andrew honoured in this way.

"Steve was an Airlie Beach icon who made vast contributions to the local live music and sporting scenes and he embodied the stories of defiance, hope and local heroes our 'Defying Debbie' book brings to life," she said.

A celebration of Steve's life was held at the Whitsunday Sailing Club.

News Corp Australia

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