Today show host Karl Stefanovic became emotional as he announced the death of legendary Channel Nine newsreader Brian Henderson on Thursday morning.
The TV and radio pioneer, who had been Karl’s mentor when he was a young reporter, passed away on Thursday morning at the age of 89.
During a touching speech in which he paid tribute to the ‘absolute legend and gentleman’, Karl recalled the advice Henderson once gave him, which he carried with him throughout his career.
Tragic news: Today host Karl Stefanovic became emotional as he announced the death of his mentor Brian Henderson on Thursday, and revealed the advice the legendary Channel Nine newsreader gave him before he died
‘He mentored a lot of people that came through the newsroom, including myself,’ the 46-year-old began.
‘I remember this one particular day, I’d come down from Brisbane and he called me to his office and he said, “I’ve got a couple of things to raise with you, young fellow.”‘
After initially being worried he was ‘in trouble’ with the TV great, Karl revealed that Henderson had actually asked him: ‘Are you trying to sound like Ray Martin?’ – referring to the ever-charismatic Nine journalist.
Passing: Brian Henderson, who had been Karl’s mentor during his years as a young reporter, passed away at the age of 89, one year after refusing treatment for kidney cancer
As his fill-in co-host Sophie Walsh began to chuckle, Karl said he had responded: ‘Yes, I think the world of Ray Martin!’
But Henderson then gave him a word of advice: just be yourself.
‘That little bit of advice, and from the master craftsman…’ Karl added. ‘What a life, and what a legend in the business. A life well lived.’
With a smile, Karl also recalled that the veteran newsreader was a ‘perfectionist’ and a ‘hard worker’ who always had a ‘cheeky smile’ on his face.
Declining health: In February 2020, Henderson revealed his decision to refuse further treatment or surgery after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Pictured announcing his retirement in 2002
Confirming Henderson’s death earlier in the show, Karl said: ‘Brian was a much-loved member of the Nine family, hosting the Sydney weeknight news from 1957 until his retirement in 2002, becoming Australia’s longest-serving news presenter.
‘He also hosted Bandstand for many years. I knew him – an absolute legend, a gentleman and a total professional who provided guidance and inspiration for many generations who followed. We loved him.’
The New Zealand-born journalist leaves behind two children from his first marriage, and two children, Nicole, 50, and Jody, 48, with his second wife, Mardi.
Karl concluded: ‘Brian was married to his lovely wife Mardi for 48 years. She was at his bedside this morning alongside his daughters Jody and Nicole.’
Today Extra host David Campbell led tributes on Twitter, writing: ‘Brian Henderson has passed away. A legendary broadcaster and true gentleman.
‘RIP to one of the greats.’
Family: The New Zealand-born journalist leaves behind two children from his first marriage, and two children, Nicole and Jody, with his second wife, Mardi. The couple are seen in 2006
In February 2020, Brian had revealed his decision to refuse further treatment or surgery after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
He told The Daily Telegraph at the time he’d had a ‘wonderful life’ and wanted to spend his last days with those closest to him.
Henderson said: ‘I won’t go tomorrow, but what’s the point of living if you have to spend it in a hospital having treatment after treatment?’
Before his final diagnosis, the TV veteran had beaten melanoma, prostate, bowel and throat cancer over the years.
Henderson refused to have intrusive keyhole surgery to remove his right kidney and said he was not interested in undergoing radiation or chemotherapy.
Battles: Henderson had previously had his prostate and some of his bowel taken out, and described his 2014 diagnosis with throat cancer as a ‘toughie’. Pictured in the Nine News Sydney studio in 2002
‘My doctor said the tumour in my kidney is likely to be slow growing so I’ve decided, at my age, to leave it there,’ he said.
‘The doctor said I’m likely to die of something else before this kills me.’
Henderson had previously had his prostate and some of his bowel taken out, and described his 2014 diagnosis with throat cancer as a ‘toughie’.
He also said he worried about his wife Mardi being lonely when he’s gone.
The couple met when Mardi was only 16 and Henderson was 33, and her parents forbade them to marry until she had turned 18.
Professional life: Henderson was Australia’s longest-serving newsreader, arriving in the country in 1953 to work as a DJ, before working for Channel Nine between 1957 and 2002
‘Brian was my first real love…It’s been years of wedded bliss. We are also best friends – always have been,’ Mardi told New Idea in 2014.
In an interview with Nine News Sydney anchor Peter Overton last year, Henderson said he ‘wasn’t afraid’ of death, and promised the reporter they would ‘catch up for a drink’ when both of them were ‘on the other side’.
Henderson was Australia’s longest-serving newsreader, arriving in the country in 1953 to work as a DJ, before working for Channel Nine between 1957 and 2002.
Family first: Henderson told The Daily Telegraph in February 2020 he wanted to spend his last days with his family and wife of 48 years, Mardi. Pictured at the 2013 Logies
He also hosted the popular Australian version of music show Bandstand from 1958 to 1972, which launched the careers of artists such as Peter Allen and the Bee Gees.
He won two Gold Logies during his illustrious career, the first in 1968 as the host of Bandstand.
Brian received his second in 2013, when he became the 30th member of the TV Week Logies Hall of Fame.
He retired from television in 2002.
Peter Costello, Chairman of Nine, said in a statement: ‘Brian Henderson was the best of the best, he was iconic. The ultimate professional and the trusted face of television news for generations of Australians.
‘Hendo was not just a much loved newsman, he also brought modern pop music to generations of Australian teenagers through his hosting role on Bandstand.
‘He was trusted, he had a warmth that he brought into the living rooms of millions of Australians. He will be deeply missed but his giant legacy and contribution will live on in the DNA of Nine.’
Praise: Nine Chairman Peter Costello said, ‘Brian Henderson was the best of the best, he was iconic. The ultimate professional and the trusted face of television news for generations of Australians.’ Pictured: Henderson celebrating Australian television’s 50th birthday in 2006