“Will daddy still be able to hug me?”

That was all his daughter Kristie, on her fifth birthday, cared about before the family went to visit Newton in hospital several weeks after the tragic plane accident that literally cut down the 1979 Australian Open champion in his prime.

It was July 1983 – and pitch dark – when Newton lost his right arm and eye after walking into the spinning propeller while rushing madly to catch the Cessna 210 back home to Newcastle after watching a Sydney Swans game at the SCG.

Ironically, Newton would ordinarily have been in the UK playing The Open, which he went so painfully close to winning eight years earlier if not for an arm injury that ruled the 1975 runner-up out.

RIGHT: Following his accident, Newton has been a constant presence in Australian golf, particularly through his junior golf foundation. PHOTO: David Cannon/Getty Images.

But fate dealt Newton a cruel hand that rainy, wintry night which his great mate and former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke recalled at the 2015 Jack Newton Celebrity Classic in the Hunter Valley.

"I hadn't been prime minister long when the accident first happened and I of course went straight to the hospital," Hawke said.

"The doctor said: 'I don't know whether we're going to be able to save him PM but he's got two things going for him – he's unbelievably strong and he's got (wife) Jackie'.

"And those two things worked of course to save that marvellous life, which we're all terribly grateful for because he's been and continues to be a great Australian citizen.

"I always say at these meetings that I love Jack Newton. When I think of an Australian, I think of Jack Newton – courage unlimited, no bullshit, a thoroughly decent man who has dedicated his life which was saved in the most unusual of circumstances."

Jackie says it was a life that may not have been saved if not for her daughter's words in the devastating aftermath to the freak accident.

Concerned that Kristie and her two-year-old brother Clint would be too scared to see their father so horribly wounded, Jackie held back taking the children to the hospital for as long as she could.

"The kids hardly noticed all the tubes, they were just so happy to see him and that it was just the thing that Jack needed to live." - Jackie Newton.

Beforehand, she explained to Kristie that her father had lost an arm.

"Will daddy still be able to hug me?" Kristie asked, to which her mother said: 'daddy can cuddle with one arm'.

"The kids hardly noticed all the tubes, they were just so happy to see him and that it was just the thing that Jack needed to live."

Almost 40 years on and Newton is now fighting another life-and-death battle after being diagnosed with dementia.

Next week's 42nd annual "Jack" will be the first since the shattering news was made public in October and the first since his son Clint, the former NRL star and now RLPA boss, replaced Newton on the board.

A who's who of Australian sports stars, musicians, comedians and dignitaries will flock, accordingly, to Newton's hometown of Cessnock for the occasion.

The event has raised more than $3 million for charity over the years, while the Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation has raked in upwards of $20 million for the development of the country's brightest young golfers since its establishment in 1986.

Former World No.1s Jason Day and Adam Scott, fellow PGA Tour winners Cam Davis and Matt Jones, women's stars Nikki Garrett, Rebecca Artist, Nikki Campbell and new LPGA graduate Steph Kyriacou have all benefited from the program.

Little wonder that, to this day, Newton ranks his efforts in helping shape such careers above his on-course accomplishments.

"Jack and I never started the Jack Newton Junior Golf with the mindset of generating such a significant amount towards golf," Jackie Newton told AAP.

"Jack simply loved the game of golf and we wanted to help children. To be in a position today, where we're now talking about these types of figures is truly incredible.

"We would both agree that this is arguably Jack's single biggest achievement in golf because it has impacted so many children and families over 35 years.

"I'm proud of him and I know Clint and Kristie are too."

Still, Newton's on-course feats should never be forgotten, or under-estimated.

He was a giant of the game when tragedy struck – just 33, a year older than Adam Scott was when he won The Masters, and already runner-up at both Augusta National and The Open.

In fact, Newton would have raised the Claret Jug at Carnoustie in 1975 had Tom Watson not drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the last hole to force an 18-hole playoff.

He was that close.

Watson then fortuitously chipped in for eagle on the 14th hole of the playoff to ultimately deny Newton by a shot and claim the first of his five Open trophies.

It also took the wizardry of the great Seve Ballesteros to stop Newton from becoming the first Australian to don the Green Jacket at the 1980 Masters.

His memory may have failed him, but Newton's legacy, on the course and off it, will endure forever.