A restored Kenny the Kennebec (aka the Big Spud) stood as a proud guard as members of Tasmania's agricultural, political sectors and wider community filled the Latrobe Memorial Hall to celebrate the life of Sassafras farmer Rick Rockliff. "From parsnip pickers to Prime Ministers, Rick Rockliff was never out of his depth," Latrobe Mayor Peter Freshney said. Mr Rockliff - a pioneer of the poppy industry and former Latrobe deputy mayor - died on November 20 after a short battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Geraldine and four children, which includes Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff. Jeremy Rockliff thanked the community for the support shown as the family tried to "navigate life without the captain of the ship." "The last weeks were not easy but he had his final five days at home. He was stoic and uncomplaining and lived for each extra day," Mr Rockliff said. "Dad told us his greatest two achievements in life were marrying Gerry and building the Big Spud. I assume us kids came in a close third place." Rick Rockliff created the famous quirky landmark 40 years ago to promote his roadside vegetable business. It recently blew over in high winds and news of Kenny's demise spread around the globe. It will soon be back in his rightful place at Sassafras overlooking the Springfield property where the Rockliff family lived. Mr Rockliff senior was described as an excellent stockman who loved his animals - even the working dogs which failed miserably in the working department. "His last dog Jack went from a kennel out the back, to a kennel under the deck then to a bed and blanket in the loungeroom," his son said. He told the story of a day when his father run across paddocks at high speed in gumboots to save a badly injured crop dusting pilot from being burnt. The plane had crashed and was about to burst into flames. Mr Rockliff got him away from the scene just in time. Mr Rockliff played a huge role in Tasmania's then burgeoning poppy industry in his job with Tasmanian Alkaloids. "His name was synonymous with poppies. Two characteristics shaped his career. His fierce loyalty to his staff and his love of the land and desire to protect and enhance it," Terry Bryant said. Cr Freshney said Rick Rockliff hated red tape and bureaucracy. "It was the bane of his existence. Except when he wanted a council concession on the cost of dog registration for working dogs that would not work," Cr Freshney laughed.