Franco Scarpini has an unrivalled passion for the deeds of Bundaberg’s pioneer aviator Bert Hinkler.
Mr Scarpini lives in Arezzo, Italy which is close to the Mt Pratomagno in the Italian Alps where Hinkler crashed and perished on January 7, 1933.
Following the extended period of community lockdown in Italy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Scarpini and his wife Marcella chose a visit to Hinkler’s memorial on the mountain in late June as one of their first outings as restrictions were lifted.
In recent correspondence with Bundaberg Now, Mr Scarpini said he and his wife had visited the memorial site to belatedly commemorate Anzac Day as part of their tribute to the memory of Hinkler.
Due to the pandemic the couple was unable to make the trip in April but 60 days later, they managed to access the site and pause to reflect on the deeds of an inspirational airman.
Mon Repos boulder in Hinkler memorial
Mr Scarpini said that central to the memorial site is a large boulder taken from the beach at Mon Repos and transported to Italy.
The boulder and the mountain signify the unity between Hinkler’s places of commencement and finality regarding his aviation career.
“The wind and the winter storms had dumped a lot of waste into the area, so we cleaned it up,” Mr Scarpini said.
The couple were taken by the sight of a budding bramble at the base of a commemorative stone bearing a plaque to the “Courage of the Aviator.”
“The green plant had seven branches appearing almost compass-like in pointing out the place where the crash had occurred and to England from where Hinkler had commenced his journey in his Puss Moth,” Mr Scarpini said.
“We saw this as an expressive sign that the mountain continues to send,” he said.
Franco Scarpini located ‘death marker’
According to Deputy Mayor Bill Trevor who met with the Hinkler enthusiast last year, Franco Scarpini is credited with locating Hinkler’s “death marker” in 2014.
“There is somewhat a touch of romanticism attached to the rediscovery of the marker placed in 1974 at the location where Bert’s body was found.
“Franco was involved in the search for markers showing the site of the crash and the location of Hinkler’s body.
“In searching for the markers, Mr Scarpini was alerted to the sound of an eagle flapping above him. On looking up he spotted the second marker still lashed to the tree next to which Hinkler had perished. Forty years of growth had lifted the marker well above ground level,” Cr Trevor said.
“Given that Hinkler had reportedly often referred to himself as “a lone eagle” the circumstances of the marker’s discovery only added to the mystique and legend of the pioneering airman.
“Perhaps that same mystique applies to the compass-like bramble growing at the base of the memorial stone,” Cr Trevor said.
Franco Scarpini visited Bundaberg in January last year and presented items to the Hinkler Hall of Aviation including a volume titled “In Loving Memory”, a book containing details of the many famous international people buried alongside Bert Hinkler in the Cimitero Agli Allori in Florence.
Mayor Jack Dempsey who accepted the book, said it was representative of the wonderful emotional tie that existed between Italy and the people of the Bundaberg Region.
“The deep respect the Italian people obviously feel for a man of Hinkler’s pioneering calibre has manifest itself in so many ways,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“The effort Franco Scarpini has injected into the development and maintenance of the Hinkler Memorial and the Hinkler Walking Trail really demonstrates that amazing connection between our communities regarding our hometown hero Bert Hinkler.”
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