The Reef Gate­way pub’s RSL res­cue

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS - By Inge Hansen

BILL Rose clearly re­mem­bers when pub­li­can John O’Neill saved the day – or at least saved the Air­lie Beach / Whit­sun­day RSL.

It was 17 years ago when Mr O’Neill, the owner of the Reef Gate­way Ho­tel, ap­proached the for­mer vice pres­i­dent of the RSL sub-branch and of­fered his busi­ness as their new home.

“It was back in 1999 when my­self and an­other chap by the name of Ron Champ were look­ing for some­where to hold the RSL,” Mr Rose rem­i­nisced.

“(John) met us hav­ing a cool ale one day and asked if we were still look­ing.

“(He) asked us ‘what do you think about this?’ and we could see po­ten­tial.”

And if it wasn’t for Mr O’Neill, Mr Rose said the Air­lie Beach/Whit­sun­day RSL prob­a­bly wouldn’t be alive today.

“Since he first took us in, he’s been our pa­tron and is our num­ber-one honorary mem­ber,” he said.

Mr O’Neill, who was one of the top table guests at Fri­day’s cel­e­bra­tions of 100 years of RSL, said giv­ing the lo­cal sub­branch its home gave him a sense of be­ing a part of the town.

He said he strongly be­lieved you got back what you put into some­thing.

“And one thing I’ve al­ways main­tained is be­ing part of the com­mu­nity and giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity,” he said.

“It feels good to know that you’re a part of such a strong com­mu­nity.”

Air­lie Beach / Whit­sun­day RSL sub-branch pres­i­dent, Terry Brown, said Mr O’Neill was cer­tainly a very com­mu­nity-minded per­son.

“He’s been very good to us and he’s looked af­ter us as well as other parts of the com­mu­nity,” he said.

Speak­ing of Fri­day’s hon­our­ing of the cen­te­nary of RSL, Mr O’Neill said the achieve­ment was “re­mark­able”.

“There’s not too many groups and com­mit­tees that can boast that they’ve been go­ing for 100 years,” he said.

“It’s quite amaz­ing and it’s nearly a part of our na­tional her­itage.”

As for his own con­tri­bu­tion Mr O’Neill said he hoped he would “leave a legacy”.

COBBERS: Pub­li­can John O’Neill, cen­tre, has a long as­so­ci­a­tion with Bill Rose, left, and Terry Brown, hav­ing given the Air­lie Beach/Whit­sun­day RSL a home at the Reef Gate­way Ho­tel.

MC: Air­lie Beach/Whit­sun­day RSL sub-branch pres­i­dent Terry Brown pre­sid­ing over for­mal­i­ties at Fri­day’s cel­e­bra­tions of 100 years of RSL.

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