A link to Ballarat's mercantile and military past has faded with the death of Bill Opie at the age of 97. While he will be remembered as a director of the family business of Messer & Opie, Mr Opie had many roles in the community during his life, including president of the Ballarat RSL sub-branch in 1951-52.
William Edwin "Bill" Opie was born on October 31, 1923, the son of Francis (Frank) and Mary Dorothea Opie (née Lukey). He was educated at Ballarat College from 1936 until 1940. Like many young Ballarat men, he joined the services - in his case the RAAF - on his 18th birthday in 1941.
He began training as a Flight-Rigger at the Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne and the Brunswick Technical School. Embarking for England on November 9, 1944, Bill served as Leading Aircraftman with 455 (Beaufighter) Squadron at a succession of bases - Dallachy, Leuchars, Thornaby, Swinderby, Langham, and Gillingham.
The squadron flew Hampden and Beaufighter aircraft as a strike wing, menacing Axis shipping in the English Channel, keeping it clear for the D-Day invasion in 1944. After the invasion it concentrated on the Dutch and Norwegian coasts, destroying U-Boats and merchant ships.
Bill Opie was discharged from RAF Station Binbrook, in Lincolnshire, England, and returned to Australia in January, 1946.
Secretary of the Ballarat RSL Maurie Keating remembers Bill Opie not so much as an ex-serviceman, but as one of the people behind Messer & Opie's menswear counters.
"He was a very nice - and I mean this - a really nice fellow, always supportive and kind," Mr Keating says.
"In the times I'm talking about, we young fellows didn't have much money and he was always helpful."
In 1950 Bill Opie married Betty Wakeford Leask at Pleasant Street Methodist Church. Settling in Barkly Street, he became a company director of Messer & Opie. Betty Opie died in 2004; Bill is survived by his daughters Jenny and Elizabeth and his son Francis.