Microphone with the text Catholic Church, Career in Radio, Love of Flying, Raising Money for Children with Disabilities, Travel, Grounded by Religion, Love and Family   Recognising senior Victorians logo and image

Inspired by Father Aloysius, his favourite teacher, as a teenager Errol Van Leishout’s ambition was to become a Catholic Brother. That dream was thwarted when Errol’s mother took ill and he had to help look after her. He never returned to the seminary, instead the 74-year-old worked in a variety of jobs, including as a radio presenter, a pilot and in sales.

A fledging career in radio begins

When he was 22, Errol stopped to watch a radio presenter at a shopping centre who was attempting to break the world record for longest continual broadcast. ‘He had to do it for 88 hours. He didn't succeed, but it was great to watch,’ Errol says. The radio manager noticed Errol’s interest and invited him back to the studio and he was soon put to work, presenting the Morning program from six to nine o’clock. Around the same time, Errol got his pilot’s license. ‘The opener to my program was a recording of me talking to the control tower. I'd start the engine of the airplane and take off with Frank Sinatra’s Come fly with me playing. It took less than six months for me to get 30,000 people listening to the program.’

A love of flying

Errol loved flying and raised money so he could share the joy with children with disabilities. ‘I took kids who had never been in an airplane before, so that was really one of the highlights of my flying career.’ Unable to afford the expense involved in becoming a commercial pilot, Errol moved into sales. ‘I ended up being a sales manager for a Chinese import-export company. I travelled extensively into Asia — I’d go to Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok every three months and I’d spend a million dollars every trip, buying products like acres upon acres of pineapples to be canned and sold in Australia.’

Building a family

Errol married Regina, a duty nurse he met during a hospital appointment, and the couple had a longed-for daughter. Through it all, religion has remained an important part of Errol’s life. ‘I'm a devout Roman Catholic. I go to mass every day. I do either the first or the second reading at every mass.’