'Incredible journalist': Willesee’s funeral stirs hearts
MOURNERS have gathered in Sydney to farewell veteran journalist Mike Willesee a week after he lost his battle with throat cancer.
Family and friends, including former television colleagues Tracey Grimshaw, Melissa Doyle, Peter Meakin and David Leckie, joined the hundreds of people arriving at St Mary's Cathedral for the distinguished reporter's funeral.
Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher oversaw the requiem mass for Willesee.
The former Four Corners and A Current Affair host, who died last Friday aged 76, began working for the ABC before moving on to the Nine and Seven networks.
Broadcaster Melissa Doyle called him an "incredible journalist".
"For any of us who worked with him, he was working on Sunday Night, as his last job. (He was) a consummate professional, brilliant interviewer," she said.
"If we could all just take a little bit from how wonderful he was, and go forth. There will be a lot of people raising a cheer to what an amazing man and journo he was.
"There was so much to learn from him, no matter how old we all, you always find these people in our industry to look up to and learn from, and he was one."
One of the journalist's most iconic interviews was with John Hewson, the Liberal leader vying to be prime minister, in the lead-up to the 1993 election.
Ten days out from the poll, Willesee peppered the politician with questions about his proposed goods and services tax - including a simple one about the cost of a birthday cake.
Hewson's embarrassing inability to clearly answer Willesee's questions was credited with costing the Liberals the election - which had been dubbed unlosable.
While on assignment in Kenya in 1997, Willesee and cameraman Greg Low shared a brush with death after the plane they were on crashed.
The experience led Willesee back to his Catholic faith, he later revealed.
In an interview with ABC's Australian Story two years ago, he revealed he was battling throat cancer.
"I was getting sick, and I had a lot of pain in one side of my jaw. It was cancer. The prognosis wasn't very good," he said.
Willesee was married to former Miss Australia Joan Stanbury and had two children, Michael and Katie. He later married actress and model Carol Brent in 1976, and the couple had daughters Amy, Lucy and Jo.
Willesee's son, Michael Willesee Jr, followed in his father's footsteps as a journalist and then producer, with earlier stints in advertising, before moving into politics as an adviser. He is married to 60 Minutes reporter Allison Langdon.
Willesee's daughter Amy Willesee is a journalist and writer married to fellow writer Mark Whittaker.
In 1999, Willesee married television make-up artist Gordana Poljak and had a son, Rok. The couple separated after 11 years of marriage and divorced the following year.