Bert Newton’s son Matthew’s touching tribute to late father in funeral letter

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Bert Newton’s son, Matthew Newton has paid a touching tribute to his late father at his star-studded state funeral in Melbourne on Friday morning.

Matthew, 44, was unable to attend the event as he is based in New York City and instead penned a heartfelt letter that was read by Bert's longtime friend, Peter Smith.

Actor Matthew Newton arrives for the 2009 GQ Men Of The Year Awards at Sydney University on November 19, 2009 in Sydney, Australia
Bert Newton's son, actor Matthew Newton has paid tribute to his late father in a latter. Photo: Getty Images.

Matthew's letter to his dad

Peter told mourners at St Patrick's Cathedral that he'd spoken with Looking For Alibrandi star Matthew on the phone for about 45 minutes the previous day and was 'honoured' to read his letter in his stead.

Matthew's letter began with an apology that he wasn't able to be with his family to 'celebrate' his dad due to ongoing travel restrictions related to the Covid pandemic.

"I'm very sorry that due to the pandemic, I can't be with you all there to celebrate dad," he wrote.

Matthew went on to remember his childhood years, watching old black and white films with his showbiz father, who introduced him to the works of Hollywood greats such as Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.

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An order of service booklet is seen ahead of the state funeral for Australian actor Bert Newton at St Patrick's Cathedral on November 12, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia
Bert Newton was farewelled with a state funeral at St Patrick's Cathedral on November 12 in Melbourne. Photo: Getty Images.

"They were our buddies and dad and I began a back and forth conversation about them that would continue without a break for the next 34 years," he said.

"Swapping old showbiz stories and legends was how he and I, two Catholic Australian men of different generations, expressed our love and affection for one another without having to actually say it all the time."

Matthew went on to reveal that their shared love of the golden age of Hollywood was key to Matthew 'reconnecting' with Bert during the past decade he's spent living overseas.

"Over the last 10 years while I've lived abroad, dad and I would play our conversational songs over Zoom and FaceTime, tools that allowed me to connect and in a way to reconnect with my whole family, especially with dad," he said.

Peter Smith speaks at the state funeral for Australian actor Bert Newton at St Patrick's Cathedral on November 12, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia
Bert's friend, Peter Smith read a letter from Bert's son, Matthew who was unable to attend the funeral. Photo: Getty Images.
A family photo, tributes and awards are on display ahead of the state funeral for Australian actor Bert Newton at St Patrick's Cathedral on November 12, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia
A photo of Bert and his family, along with tributes and awards were on display. Photo: Getty Images.

Matthew referenced the 'tough times' he's experienced in his life and thanked his dad for his support.

"Everyone knows he was a great entertainer but what a lot of people don't know about that is that he wouldn't just be around for the laughs.

"Those close to him experienced how we show up in the tough times too, no one more than me."

In 2006, Matthew was arrested for alleged assault in relation to his then-girlfriend, actor Brooke Satchwell. He later revealed he had bipolar disorder and underwent treatment in a psychiatric unit.

Matthew pleaded guilty to the one count of common assault but in July 2007, he had his conviction overturned based on medical grounds.

In the following years, Matthew was allegedly involved in incidents of domestic violence and assault.

Bert's final conversation

Toward the end of his letter, Matthew shared the final laughter and tear-filled conversation he had with Bert before he passed away in his home on October 30, at the age of 83.

"One final conversation a few days before we lost him was different from the usual and we both knew it," Matthew recalled.

The casket of Australian actor Bert Newton is seen ahead of the state funeral at St Patrick's Cathedral on November 12, 2021 in Melbourne, Australi
Bert's funeral was attended by stars such as Andy Lee, Chrissie Swan and Molly Meldrum. Photo: Getty Images.

"The change was never directly stated but we eschewed the stories and the laughs and just said how much we loved each other. During this wonderful chat, my mother was pottering around in the background, adding her two cents every now and again and doing lovely things for dad as usual.

"At one point, she took something into another room and the second she left dad leaned into the phone camera and whispered, 'I think she's poisoning my food, Matthew.' Well, we both laughed and laughed until we cried."

Matthew concluded his letter by saying that he knew his dad would've wanted his funeral to be full of laughter, not tears.

"So with that in mind, I'll get out while the going's good and say to the man himself: Albert Watson Wilberforce Thomas Patrick Belmont Francis Archibald Kenneth John Aloysius, Peter Newton, I'm going to really miss jamming with you mate. He is looking at you, kid."

Matthew's letter to Bert

Read Matthew's letter to his late father, Bert Newton in full below:

I'm very sorry the due to the pandemic, I can't be with you all there to celebrate dad. Growing up, I never really watched Bambi or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or a lot of other kids movies you could name I didn't want to. What fascinated me were the movies that created that black and white glow radiating through the doorway of my dad's home office. That's where I wanted to be.

But by the age of 10, my dad had introduced me to Humphrey Bogart, the Marx Brothers, Elijah Cook, Jr. Abbott and Costello. Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra and on and on. They were our buddies and dad and I began a back and forth conversation about them that would continue without a break for the next 34 years. Swapping old showbiz stories and legends was how he and I, two Catholic Australian men of different generations, expressed our love and affection for one another without having to actually say it all the time. We've exchanged the same stories and bits, hundreds of them over and over, not caring that we already knew them. Just loving to hear them again and again. More importantly, hearing the other person tell them again, they were the conversational equivalent of playing our favourite songs, we were jamming together, and we loved it. It was our secret club.

Bert and Patti Newton
Bert and his wife Patti Newton were married for almost 50 years. Photo: Instagram/pattinewtonofficial.

I remember proudly telling dad when I was a kid, hey, the books on my shelf in my bedroom and the books on the shelf in your office are all about the same sort of things, dad. To which he replied Absolutely. course the other way of saying that Matthew is you stole half my library. A lot's been said about my dad sharp wit, but my two personal favourite off the cuff lines of his weren't said on television, or even in front of a proper audience. In fact, there was only one single person present. One was a doctor. The other was an 11 year old me. Now, these lines don't have a place in today's proceedings as both edge towards being a little risque. Good morning, Archbishop. But what I love about them were they were said to people who weren't going to further his career, or write a great review. Dad purely wanted to pop the tension of an awkward situation and see another human being light up and laugh. I honestly believe that that was the thing apart from his family that made dad the happiest. It was a superpower and he always tried to use it for good.

Over the last 10 years while I've lived abroad, dad and I would play our conversational songs over Zoom and FaceTime, tools that allowed me to connect and in a way to reconnect with my whole family, especially with dad. Everyone knows he was a great entertainer but what a lot of people don't know about that is that he wouldn't just be around for the laughs. Those close to him experienced how we show up in the tough times too, no one more than me.

One final conversation a few days before we lost him was different from the usual and we both knew it. The change was never directly stated but we eschewed the stories and the laughs and just said how much we loved each other. During this wonderful chat, my mother was pottering around in the background, adding her two cents every now and again and doing lovely things for dad as usual. At one point, she took something into another room and the second she left dad leaned into the phone camera and whispered I think she's poisoning my food, Matthew. Well, we both laughed, and laughed until we cried. Although given why we're here today, mum, perhaps I should have taken him more seriously.

Bert Newton lying in a hospital bed surrounded by his grandchildren. Photo: Instagram/pattinewtonofficial.
Bert's grandchildren were his 'favourite thing on the planet' said his son, Matthew. Photo: Instagram/pattinewtonofficial.

Well, now as much as dad would have loved that tag it really doesn't work does it mum because, you know, there's no lioness in the world who loved supported and cherished her lion as much as you did dad. You two were a team, are a team. And even though your partner isn't on stage anymore, the show goes on. You'll be okay. Mainly because you'll have Lauren's 97 children to take care of you. Truly though, his grandkids became dad's new favourite thing on the planet. And Sam, Eva, Lola, Monty, Pearla and Alby gave him a new lease of life in his seventh and eighth decade. Dad was the ultimate host or as he preferred to be called 'compere', never presenter, a term he loathed.

If he was here today, he would be entertaining, moving, sincere and mischievous, expertly saying all the feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment, saving them from us. And that's how he'd want this day to be: with a wink, not a tear. So with that in mind, I'll get out while the going's good and say to the man himself: Albert Watson Wilberforce Thomas Patrick Belmont Francis Archibald Kenneth John Aloysius, Peter Newton, I'm going to really miss jamming with you mate. He is looking at you, kid.

Bert's cause of death

Patti Newton, Bert's wife of more than 50 years, revealed the iconic entertainer's cause of death after he passed away at the age of 83.

Bert had been receiving palliative care at the time of his death following a long health battle that led to one of his legs being amputated in May due to a life-threatening infection.

"It was complications with everything," Patti, 76, told Daily Mail Australia. "When you have a leg amputated you have to be on a lot of painkillers and Bert had had, just this year alone, he's had eight procedures, which all involved anaesthetics and that affects you pretty badly."

"Your whole system and just everything closes down really. That was all," she added.

At the same time, Patti confirmed the couple's son, US-based actor Matthew Newton wouldn't be attending Bert's funeral and also took the opportunity to call out any reports of a family 'rift'.

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