As I have often stated, Benalla is my adopted home town. So it is a great honour to have received the award.
As a youth in 1950 I came to Benalla for my first job. In addition to the job I found, for the first time in my life, loving home environments with the Hernan family, and also the Elliott’s with whom I boarded.
The Hernan’s, John, Francie and their seven children, accepted me as one of their own. I proposed the toast to each of the seven siblings on their 21st birthdays, and, for innumerable years, acted as ‘Santa’ at the Hernan Christmas celebrations.
Frank and Eileen Elliott cared for me and entertained me with a surprise 21st birthday party when they provided for me and all my friends at St. Joseph’s Hall in 1953.
In Benalla I have met and married my loving wife; have built our own home; have raised and educated our four wonderful children who all do us proud and have been responsible for a loving family life. I have gained my accounting qualifications and experienced a successful business life; I have enjoyed 60 years on the bowling green; I have made many remarkable friends; and I enjoy a relaxed retirement.
And so, forever, I have felt an underlying indebtedness to Benalla.
I certainly had a debt to repay.
How could I do that? ……. By Community Involvement!
And so, over a lifetime, I have volunteered for in excess of 30 executive positions, (spanning anything up to 43 years); up to 15 annual honorary audits and account reviews; and a few doorknocks for not-for-profit organisations.
As a 90 year old, I now do only 4 or 5 account reviews, and they are a year to year proposition.
Have I repaid my debt to Benalla? ….. Hopefully!!
The first indication of the Order of Australia award came in September 2011 when I was doing a door knock for the National Heart Foundation. I called on a neighbour who gave me a generous donation and, over a cup of tea, told me he would like to nominate me for an Australia Day award.
This moment had slipped my mind until April 2013 when I received a letter from the Governor General, which led to an announcement on the following Queen’s Birthday: I had been awarded an Order of Australia Medal, OAM.
The announcement created a lot of publicity and congratulations all round.
I hadn’t realised that there were so many politicians in the surrounding districts. They all befriended me.
In the long haul I received more than 80 phone calls, 50 cards and letters, and so many congratulations in the street, at church, at Rotary, U3A and at my two Probus clubs.
In my acknowledgement at Rotary I remarked ”some people in my position might say that they “feel humble”; …. “humble be damned, I feel proud” … I said.
Which indeed I was!
A replica of the medal hangs, in a frame, on my kitchen wall.
It is, indeed, “an object …. precious to me.”