Windowrie Wines founder James ‘David’ O’Dea sadly passed away on Friday, May 7, at the age of 91.
O’Dea played a significant role in the success of the Cowra and Canowindra wine districts, establishing the first commercial winery – Windowrie Estate Wines – in the area. He was awarded an OAM for his services earlier this year.
Below is a short obituary for David O’Dea, prepared by his family:
David was born and raised in Sydney, spending a lot of his childhood on the family owned dairy farm in Richmond. David attended Hawkesbury Agricultural College and, after completing his studies, purchased Windowrie in 1959.
David married Wizz Hegarty in 1964 and they settled in Canowindra establishing a mixed farming operation. David and Wizz had four children, Steph, Doe, Jason and Nook.
David and Wizz were very active members of the local community, establishing the Cowra Eagles Rugby Club and helping with starting the Canowindra Pythons Rugby Club. David was the Chairman of the Canowindra Show Society for over ten years, and was very active in the Society before and after this period.
Canowindra was home to the major drug rehabilitation facility ‘Lyndon House’ which was a not for profit service for families battling drug issues. David was passionate about the facility and the first chairman of the board, remaining in the role for many years ensuring the ongoing survival of the facility.
David often said, ‘’if we can change the life of one young person and avoid the terrible impact drug use can have on family and friends, it is worth every effort.”
Of great economic significance to the region was David’s pioneering of the Central West Wine industry.
Following several years of difficult environmental conditions, a review of the farm business with advice from the Orange Agricultural College was completed. Following this review David made a decision that would change the direction of the farm forever.
David sold 50% of the wheat and sheep farm and used the funds to invest in a trial planting of stone fruit and wine grapes. David said of this period, “it was a huge gamble, and many thought I was crazy. When you love the land so much you find yourself willing to do almost anything to stay in the game.”
David and Wizz were the first individuals to plant wine grapes in the Canowindra region. They further cemented their place in the industry and the local wine region by developing the first winery in the region in 1999.
David remained active in the business until recent years and said, “it’s wonderful to be involved in such a vibrant industry. I am very proud of our family-owned business and excited about the great team we have and the direction of the business.”
David was recognised for his tireless work and fierce commitment to the wine industry and local community with an Order of Australia Medal in 2021.
David’s life will be celebrated at Canowindra Catholic Church, Thursday, May 13, at 12.30pm.
Our condolences to the O’Dea family and his friends in the Canowindra district and beyond.