The world mourned the loss of celebrities ranging from musicians David Bowie and Prince to actors Alan Rickman and Debbie Reynolds in 2016. But, as FIONA HENDERSON discovered, Ballarat also farewelled several loyal community servants this year.
In January, Daylesford Football Club hero Ron Bruce passed away aged 90.
Mr Bruce played more than 250 games for the club and won three best and fairest awards in the 1950s. He also played in the club’s only Ballarat Football League premiership win in 1961.
Daylesford Football Club vice president Steve Walsh said Mr Bruce was a fervent supporter of the club right up until the end.
In May, Roly McKenzie died suddenly aged 68.
Mrs McKenzie and her late husband Graeme ran the Eureka Pool and Eureka Stockade Holiday Park for many years.
Family members remembered Mrs McKenzie as selfless woman who thrived helping other people in her own family and the community at large.
Daughter-in-law Hayley Kane said everybody Mrs McKenzie met felt close to her.
In July, Ballarat mourned the passing of Catherine Laffey who was well-known for her work at the former University of Ballarat and her role as a Ballarat City councillor.
She was also a past director of McCallum, a Ballarat Health Services board member and a Ballarat Trades Hall supporter.
Mrs Laffey stood for a Ballarat legislative council seat in the 1996 state election, with federal MP Catherine King describing her as her mentor and teacher.
“(She was) passionate about social justice, politics and the world,” Ms King said.
Also in July, Mt Prospect Tennis Association stalwart Bill Cosgrave passed away, aged 76.
Mr Cosgrave was heavily involved with the tennis association for more than 65 years and was awarded the Tennis Victoria 2015 Country Community Champion Award for his stellar volunteer work.
He was also involved with the Smeaton Bowling Club and, in his younger days, the Clunes and Newlyn football clubs.
When she was writing her father’s eulogy, Mr Cosgrave’s daughter Larelle Holloway was told to remember “no-one is superman”. But, Mrs Holloway said, “Bill was bloody close”.
In August, a final curtain came down on singer and performer Bob Lemke.
Mr Lemke was farewelled at Her Majesty’s Theatre where he spent many hours performing with both the BLOC theatre group and in the Royal South Street competitions.
Son and opera singer Roger Lemke remembered: “Dad was always going off somewhere in a suit, black tie or tails to sing something”.
August also saw the passing of passionate sportsman and sport’s administrator John McCarty, who died aged 75.
Mr McCarty was an Australian Sports Medal recipient for his services to sports, including as a Victorian Country Football League director, a Central Highlands Football Club chief executive officer and terms served as the president, secretary and treasurer of the Buninyong Football Club.
Son Tony said his dad was the first person to put his hand up to help. “He just loved meeting people and helping people.”
One of Ballarat’s longest-serving and much-loved Catholic priests, Father Brendan Davey, also died in August.
Father Davey served in a number of parishes over his 53 years in the priesthood, including at St Mary’s Parish for more than 25 years where he held the challenging position of Ararat prison chaplain for more than two decades.
Marion College drama teacher Teresa Tonks said: “He practised two of the greatest challenges ask of Christians: limitless forgiveness and a refusal to judge others”.
In September, Ballarat family and friends of Sufiyan Ahmad mourned his loss after the five-year-old boy died after a tragic fall at a Wodonga preschool.
Sufi, as he was affectionally known, was described by his mother Hafsa Nimrah Quaseem as radiating light into the lives of everybody he met.
Also in that month, Bungaree farming stalwart and sporting identity Brian Frawley died, aged 82.
He had a lifetime involvement with the Ballarat Trotting Club, including stints as president, and became a professional athlete in his youth, including winning the 880 yard event at the Stawell Gift in 1957.
He was also coach of the Bungaree Football Club and involved with the Bungaree Primary School parents and friends committee and school reunion committee.
Son Tony described his father as: “Everyone liked him and he was a great storyteller”.
In October, disability advocate Phil Garvey died after a short battle with illness.
Mr Garvey, who had cerebral palsy, fought passionately for disability rights but was also renowned for his love of the Collingwood Football Club and his wicked sense of humour.
Brother Michael said: “He wanted to help other people. One of his carers was just saying he was always so determined to help people out”.
Also in October, Ballarat lost the “voice of healing” for sex abuse victims when Robyn Mason died, aged 65.
Dr Mason spent her life fighting for others and was an ardent feminist, who advocated against sexual assault and violence against women.
She also worked extensively in social work in rural areas.
Ballarat MP Catherine King said Dr Mason was one of the most courageous people she knew.
And the sporting world also mourned the loss of boxer John Leckie, who became the Victorian Lightweight Amateur Champion, the Australian Lightweight Champion and competed in the 1958 Commonwealth Games.
In November, much loved Ballarat Sister of Mercy Rita Hayes died after suffering a stroke.
Sr Rita was a member of the Ballarat Refugee Support Group, Australian Catholic University Social Concerns Committee, Moving Towards Justice, Ballarat Multicultural Centre and the Ballarat Shower Bus. She was also involved in setting up the Lisa Lodge Hostel and Hayley House for young women and families in need, helped establish Ballarat’s Lifeline and was the congregation leader of the Ballarat East Sisters of Mercy.
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