My children, undoubtedly, are the next in line.
Having not personally experienced a family upbringing, it is difficult to express the gratitude that I feel in having a family.
Outside of family, I would say that Norm Matthews was, perhaps, my greatest influence. I don't recall when I first met him, but would venture to say that it was on the bowling green. Norm skippered me in the number one Benalla pennant team which was then known as the "Whites". This situation continued for a number of years while each of us was also involved in the mechanics of the administration of the Benalla Bowls Club. We both served on the Board of Management and other sub-committees. We also successfully played bowls in the Victorian Country Week competition for many years. In 1986 we created a corporation titled River Gums Estate, and with a group of other men, we purchased and commenced to develop, forty five acres of land on the south eastern boundary of Benalla. We ultimately developed one hundred and fifty residential blocks, and at the present date, development has been completed and we have just two blocks left to sell. The financial reward has helped sustain me in my retirement. Regrettably, Norm passed away in 2004, just prior to being recognised as a life member of the Benalla Bowls Club and having his name appended to a wing of Benalla's Cooinda Retirement Village. I served with Norm for nine years on the Cooinda finance committee. During our long association, in business and friendship, never once did we have a cross word.
The next person to have a significant influence on my life was the late Rolfe Mann. Rolfe worked in a building beside my office, in his role of manager of the Benalla branch of the State Electricity Commission. In 1969 he became chairman of the Benalla Rose Committee. I was his treasurer. This was a very demanding committee, meeting often twice per week in the nine months prior to the Rose Festival. In that term, as a proud to-be father, I confided to Rolfe that Bernadette was expecting our first child. Not to be outdone, Rolfe confided that his wife Shirley was, too, expecting. It was to be their fourth child. In due course, our son Anthony was born hale and hearty. Christine was born to Shirley and Rolfe, but there were complications. Christine was born suddenly and unexpectedly while Shirley was showing. The dramatic result was that Christine endured brain damage. As the children grew, there was a movement within Benalla to establish a Centre to cater for people with intellectual disabilities. Rolfe became treasurer of the establishment committee. After the secretary of that committee was transferred in his employment some four months after its formation, Rolfe asked me to become Secretary. And so began an association which saw the building of the Ballandella learning centre, and the ultimate Ballandella residential building. Ballandella was then the registered name of the Benalla and District Mentally Retarded Peoples' Welfare Association. It has in recent years been taken over by Yooralla. I was secretary for nine years, then, when Rolfe became president and we appointed a paid Secretary/manager, I took over as treasurer for a further three years. Being on the committee was an arduous task and Rolfe and I worked well together. In his other life, Rolfe decided to stand for Council. He was successful and held office for many years, including something like three terms as Mayor, At each election I was his scrutineer. Regrettably Rolfe developed cancer and died at the young age of fifty five years. The end of a very powerful friendship!
It would be remiss of me not to mention my business partner, Jim Smith. I believe we met when we were both members of the Lions Club of Benalla. Jim asked me to work with him in his accounting practice in June 1967. He encouraged me to study Accounting and when I graduated we went into partnership. For many years we conducted a successful and respected business. We endured a fraudulent office manager who absconded with a serious, significant amount of funds. We experienced the 1993 floods, which went through our office at desk height. As one would expect we had our differences, and at times there were strains on our relationship. Jim was by nature a devoted family man, and at some time or another we employed each of his six children. I found them all to be friendly, hardworking, intelligent persons and had a respectful relationship with them all. Even now, some decades after retiring, I consider Tim's son Tony to be one of my closest friends. I still have, and still treasure, a letter of appreciation which Colleen gave me on her retirement to purse an alternate career. Jim and I sold our business interests to his son Brendan in 1995. At a later date Tony, when he qualified, joined him. I continued working in the practice until 1998, Jim stayed on some years until he retired to Yarrawonga. He passed away in 2013.
In my early days, as a youth in Benalla, I had a wonderful friendship with Bill Keenan and Kevin Hernan. I renewed this friendship when I returned to Benalla in 1963. Regrettably they both died at an early age: Bill in 1970 and Kevin in 1979. I have fond memories of them both and have often wished, in later life, that they were still around to be my friends. This friendship was responsible for my involvement with the Hernan family, who gave me the home that I had never before experienced. The Hernan's kindness and generosity was outstanding, marking the beginning of a relationship which has lasted a lifetime. For too many years to remember, I acted as Santa Claus at their Christmas Day festivities I also proposed the toast at each of their twenty first birthdays. I don't have the words to describe what this family meant to me.
Whilst in Wodonga, I formed a strong relationship with Tim and Mick Flanagan. We had many outings together. Unlike the Hernans, I did not have an association with their family. Nevertheless, I also have fond memories of these two friends.