Professor Hubert 'Rodney' Withers was a world leader in the battle against cancer and his quest for new treatments took him to all corners of the globe.
Professor Hubert 'Rodney' Withers was a world leader in the battle against cancer and his quest for new treatments took him to all corners of the globe. Contributed

OBITUARY: Withers led in cancer fight

DEDICATING himself to helping others for more than 50 years, Professor Hubert 'Rodney' Withers will be remembered as a world leader in the battle against cancer.

Professor Withers' quest to discover new treatments for patients took him to all corners of the globe.

Incredibly, Professor Withers' story starts right here on the Granite Belt.

Rodney was born in Stanthorpe on September 21, 1932.

He was the second of Gertrude and Hubert Withers' four children and brother to John, Judy and Helen.

John Withers said his brother certainly was a Stanthorpe boy through and through.

"Rodney would have liked to have his ashes brought back to Stanthorpe," he said.

The family home was situated on Greenup St near the war memorial and the Withers children have fond memories of their childhood.

John said growing up on the Granite Belt in the '30s was unlike anything the children of today get to experience.

"I suppose we did things that kids don't get to do any more," he said.

"There wasn't many cars driving around on the roads so we could play cricket in the street and had billycart races on Lock St.

"We'd ride our bikes to Dalveen or Wallangarra or anywhere out in the bush.

"We'd always be in trouble if we got home after dark and dad found out.

"We had a lot of fun in the bush and we'd go catching yabbies down by the creek."

John said he didn't think 'Rod' had any special interest in science as a boy.

"I suppose he had the same interests as a lot of kids do in insects and animals," he said.

"It was only once he decided to study medicine that he elected to go along the lines of research."

Rodney attended Stanthorpe State Primary School but was sent to boarding school at the Church of England Grammar School (Churchie) in Brisbane at the age of 11.

"High school had only just started in Stanthorpe," John said.

"Sometimes we'd get lifts to and from Brisbane in the food trucks due to petrol rationing."

After graduating from Churchie, both the Withers boys began studying to follow in their father's footsteps as dentists.

A year into his degree, Rodney switched to a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery before starting as an intern at the Royal Brisbane Hospital.

Rod met his wife Janet during this time and they were married in 1959.

Rod and Janet had one daughter, Genevieve, born in 1960.

Professor Withers was recognised early as a leading specialist in the field of radiation oncology.

He won a fellowship to London University and remained in England for three years.

After returning from the UK, it was clear that DrWithers' passion for research could not be met in Queensland.

What followed was a long and distinguished career in the United States, working at famous research centres such as the National Cancer Institute, the University of Texas and the University of California in Los Angeles.

Professor Withers was bestowed with a plethora of awards throughout his distinguished career, but the one that meant most to him was his Order of Australia Medal, awarded in 1988 for service to cancer research.

"He didn't ever tell us about the awards he was getting," Rod's brother John said.

"But we were aware of the Order of Australia he won.

"He came back home for that.

"He won lots of awards and travelled all over the world lecturing.

"His career took him to Russia, Poland, Italy and France."

Mr Withers said his brother was a very modest man and would rarely tell people of his achievements.

"If you were speaking to him you'd never think he'd achieved anything," he said.

"He was just an ordinary bloke from Stanthorpe.

"I'm sure people in America will carry his work forward.

"I think he was very much a tremendous mentor to many people."

Rod died earlier this year on February 25 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.

Rodney is survived by his wife Janet, daughter Genevieve, grandchildren Sarah and Emma and his brother John and sisters Judy and Helen.

Stanthorpe Border Post

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