RODEO'S face in the North East has been branded a legend after dying aged 67, following a gutsy cancer fight.
Kelvin Duke passed away on Christmas Eve after being in palliative care at Albury's Mercy Health.
He was best known for founding and then tirelessly promoting the annual Chiltern Rodeo.
Friend Michael Phibbs, a drover who helped Mr Duke establish the rodeo, said on Monday the event had united the community and raised countless dollars.
"He's a legend in his own right for the community; no-one could deny it in this town, he was unbelievable," Mr Phibbs said.
Mr Duke's passion for the rodeo remained until the end.
"Just a couple of days before he died, he said 'make sure this' and 'make sure that'," Mr Phibbs said.
"He was on to it."
Mr Phibbs' children Tom and Molly, who compete in rodeos, are among many to be mentored by Mr Duke.
He wed Sharon, who he met at the army records office in Melbourne in 1973, in Brisbane in 1975 and they had a daughter Roxy in 1978.
Mr Duke's last full-time army posting was at the apprentice school at Bonegilla before settling at Chiltern in 1995 and later working for Indigo and Wodonga councils.
The town's rodeo began in 1997.
Mr Duke had spent time on the Queensland rodeo circuit in the 1970s and specialised in bareback bronc riding.
"I love the sport, I love the town and I love seeing people enjoying rodeo," Mr Duke told The Border Mail in 2017.
In July that year, Mr Duke was diagnosed with cancer and did not varnish the diagnosis, saying "it's bad".
"I've had health dramas but the naming of the arena and life membership has lifted my spirits," Mr Duke said in March last year.
Mrs Duke said her husband's endurance after his diagnosis "was testament to his toughness and resilience and how hard he fought".
Mr Duke's funeral will be held at Chiltern's St Mary's Catholic Church from 11am on Thursday.
Donations to the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre, where Mr Duke was treated by an oncologist, are encouraged.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr Duke is survived by son-in-law Andrew and two beloved grandchildren, Marnie, 20, and Riley, 16.
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