Bryce Courtenay and wife Christine Gee at Floriade earlier this year. Photo: Colleen Petch
He was only a Canberran for little more than a year but Bryce Courtenay had a big impact on the locals and it would seem the capital rubbed off on him, too.
''Every day I'm even more conscious of what a pleasant place it is,'' Courtenay, who had lived in Reid since June last year, told The Canberra Times as he attended Floriade with his wife Christine Gee. ''People say hello. I take my dog up to the ovals, there are 15 other dogs there, I talk to all the dog owners. They're all highly intelligent people. We don't talk about real estate, as they do in Sydney. We talk about things that matter.''
The city's politicians and sporting figures were quick to pay tribute to Courtenay on Friday.
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher praised his efforts on behalf of his adopted city. ''Bryce Courtenay was a gentle but great man, who was not only an exceptional novelist and Australian, but also a great friend and supporter of Canberra,'' she said.
''A significant contributor to our community, Mr Courtenay was a keynote speaker at the ACT's first Older Persons Assembly, was an ACT Australia Day Ambassador 2012, as well as taking an active role in promoting our city for its upcoming centenary year.
''Mr Courtenay will be fondly remembered for his extraordinary contribution to Australia's and, indeed, the world's literary landscape.''
ACT Opposition Leader Zed Seselja described the South African-born Mr Courtenay as a ''great Canberran''.
''Many may not know that Bryce Courtenay chose to live in Canberra for his last years,'' he said. ''As well as being a great Australian, he was also a great Canberran.
''Bryce has been an instrumental part of the Canberra community … On a personal level, The Power of One and Tandia were among my favourite novels.''
ACT Brumbies coach Jake White, who is a fellow South African, said Mr Courtenay had a ''great innings''.
''To be fair, I knew of him and he knew of me because he was in Australia and I was the national coach of South Africa.
''He always asked questions through mates of mine.
''He was always kind enough to give me a book and would sign them for me all the time.
''That was really kind of him and that showed what type of guy he was.
''He gave me one yesterday [Thursday], the new one, and it landed on my desk.
''It means a massive amount because they're personalised to me and I'm very grateful.''