• Loddon Herald

Spanner Man - Passing of a Loddon treasure

JOHN “The Spanner Man” Piccoli has died suddenly, aged 80.

He was the creator of scores of sculptures made from spanners that attracted thousands of visitors to Boort every year.

Contracting polio as a child, John became known as “Spanner Man” for his works of art at Spanner Man Sculpture Garden and special works installed around Lake Boort.

He would source old spanners from sales and swap meets to then weld into sculptures of animals and birds, trees and giant spanners. John once said he never paid more than $2 for a spanner.

“I’ve bought 126,000 spanners, and I’ve used roughly 95,000,” he said. “I buy them all at swap meets. Ninety-five per cent of the ones I buy are rusty old spanners - I love that,” he told an interviewer in 2018.

His tallest sculpture, The Marlin, was more than seven metres tall, weighed 1200kg and was made from 3500 spanners.

Although confined to a wheelchair most of his life, John was still at work welding until his passing.

Among those paying tributes have been from Loddon Mayor Neil Beattie and Paul Haw who took tour groups to the garden since it opened to the public in 2009.

Both praised his creativity and contributions to bring people to Boort and Loddon. They said the sculptures would be a lasting legacy to John’s life.

“Together with his wife Sonia, John was responsible for the growth of tourism and coach tours to our northern part of the shire with people coming to see his amazing spanner sculptures and enjoy the beautiful gardens at their home,” said Cr Beattie.

“John, who was in a wheelchair since childhood, was an inspiration to so many, including to other people with a disability.

“John never let his disability stop him – whether it was working the farm, creating his magnificent sculptures, giving tours, or helping promote local tourism in our shire.”

Undaunted by the effects of polio, John once said: “You can do anything you like in this wheelchair if you’ve got enough determination, will and perseverance to do it.

“I’ve got heavy-lifting equipment in the workshop that can lift up to five tonnes, so it doesn’t matter how big or heavy they are, I can still move them.”

Since opening to the public, his sculpture garden gained enourmous popularity and has attracted more than 10,000 visitors a year.

In 2020, the garden received a TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice award.

His creations have been showcased in national publications, on television and radio.

A retired farmer, John and Sonia lived on land selected in 1876 by his grandfather. John ran the farm from age 18.

John is survived by wife Sonia, Andrew, Ferena, Sophia and Brigitte and their families.

A memorial service will be held tomorrow in Boort Memorial Hall.

Next week’s Loddon Herald will have a special tribute to the genius of “Spanner Man”.


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