In fact, he admits he might “get bored” if he was not busy volunteering his time at the local Brighton parish or giving endless hours of service to Lions International. Then there are the promotional presentations he makes on behalf of Angel Flight (a charity which coordinates non-emergency flights to assist country people to access specialist medical treatment) and in non-COVID times he and wife Erica regularly welcome visitors from cruise ships as part of the ‘meet and greet’ team at Outer Harbor.
Not a “great watcher of TV” or sports fan, Bob has been ‘giving back’ to the community in some capacity for most of his adult life, with his dedication to service – in particular for Lions – seeing him awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June.
“I’ve been involved in nominating other people for honours so I know the process,” he said of the award during an interview at his Dover Gardens home.
“When you first get the information via email it’s such a long wait before you can tell anyone…keeping it a secret and showing surprise on the actual day is a hard thing!”
Born and raised in Cairns, Bob said having military men and women around the town during World War II reinforced the importance of the “need to serve”.
He recalled how his mum would organise a dance every Saturday night which would raise money to support the military and Bob and his sister would be called upon to decorate the hall.
“It is what you would call a 60/40 dance – because all the young people would dance but the old people would go to the back of the hall and play the card game, Euchre.
“So I guess I grew up in a service community.”
His service also extended to the Church over many years.
Baptised a Catholic but non-practising during his childhood, it was initially affairs of the heart that brought him back to the Church.
It was 1957 and he accompanied his then girlfriend to an event being run by the Catholic Youth Movement (CYM) in Cairns. While the romantic association didn’t last, young Bob enjoyed reconnecting with his faith and the next year he took over as CYM president.
“At the same time Bishop Thomas Cahill appointed me the Diocesan youth organiser so for a couple of years I was the Bishop’s right hand man coordinating all the youth groups in north Queensland,” he said.
It was at one of these events that he met Erica. The couple were married by Bishop Cahill at St Monica’s Cathedral in Cairns in 1959.
“We met a lot of friends in the CYM and we all got married around the same time and had our families,” Bob explained.
When his insurance work took the family – which now included children Rae, Ruth and twins Lea and David – from Townsville to South Australia, their priorities were finding a home by the sea, and locating the local Catholic parish and school.
“We arrived in Adelaide on the Friday night, June 1 1974 and it was terribly cold, there was a terrific storm,” Bob recalled.
“We stayed in our caravan at the West Beach Caravan Park and the first thing on Saturday morning we hit Glenelg, parked our car and bought some warm clothes for the kids.
“Where we parked our car was outside a real estate agent … Mary Wignall found us a home and we bought it within a couple of weeks.
“We then went to the presbytery at Brighton to find out about Mass and the school (St Teresa’s) and our four kids all went there.”
Over the years Bob served on the Finance Committee at Brighton and has been a Eucharistic Minister for more than 15 years. Never too old to volunteer, he recently became one of the church’s COVID marshals.
He also was a member of the Brighton Conference of St Vincent de Paul for 10 years, including three as president.
Some of Bob’s other volunteer roles over the years have included serving as treasurer of South Western Schools Ministry (chaplaincy program), treasurer of the Abbeyfield Society at Marion (a supportive residence for the elderly), treasurer of the management committee of the Brighton Senior Citizen’s Centre and a long standing member/treasurer of the National Servicemen’s Association, Flinders sub branch.
However, most of his time has been spent volunteering with Lions. Since joining in 1962 he has served in various positions at local, State, national and international level.
Today the octogenarian continues to handle the annual insurance renewals for the 1270 Lions clubs around Australia, and he remains treasurer and public officer at the local Marion club.
To ensure he never becomes bored, he also somehow finds time for gardening, reading and planning the next holiday with Erica.
“We’ve done a lot of travelling over the years. We try to get back to Palm Cove, Cairns, once a year, we went caravanning for 40 years and we’ve been on 33 cruises.
“No matter where we are in the world, one thing is constant and that is finding the local church so we can attend Mass. Our faith is an important part of our lives.”Jump to next article