The last man standing, Bill clocks up 70 years
BILL Pittaway was 21 when he joined the Rochester RSL sub-branch.
That was in 1946, after he had returned from service in World War II where he was enlisted in the RAAF as a cook’s assistant.
Bill, now 91, has never left the subbranch and on Sunday — 70 years to the day since he joined — family, friends and countless RSL members gathered to ensure a lifetime of service did not go unnoticed.
Although it was primarily a day of celebration for the veteran, it was also one tinged with sadness.
‘‘I feel grateful to be here to celebrate 70 years and I express my thanks to my friends in the RSL for organising this function,’’ he said.
‘‘My happiness is tempered by the realisation that I am the last one left. All my friends who enlisted with me, all who joined the RSL 70 years ago are all gone. It makes me so grateful.’’
Rochester sub-branch president John Glover said service such as Bill’s was not uncommon within the RSL but it was rare for a member to serve continuously in one sub-branch.
‘‘Many young people observe an old man today who wears a few medals and acknowledge that he is a veteran but few consider this man was once young,’’ he said.
‘‘He volunteered to serve and to place his life in peril, then having survived the conflict, he volunteered again to continue serving and to honour those who served and did not survive.
‘‘Seventy years, the Biblical three score and ten years, is literally a lifetime of devoted service and personal commitment to an ideal. This speaks volumes about Bill, his character and his integrity. How lucky have the communities of Lockington and Rochester been to have had this fine man serving their communities for so long?’’
During WWII, Bill served the Australian Army on Bougainville Island in the Solomon Islands.
For many years after returning, he lived in Lockington and enjoyed RSL functions there but travelled to the district’s branch in Rochester for meetings.
Mr Glover said veterans such as Bill inspired younger veterans to not only serve but to do so vigorously without consideration of personal cost so others less fortunate may suffer less.
‘‘I am proud to have served in the Air Force, but all I did was to strive to uphold the traditions that men of Bill’s generation helped create,’’ he said.
‘‘Watch Bill in action, interacting with the community and serving within the RSL and one can see his selflessness in action. I am grateful I can follow his example.
‘‘That we both served in Bougainville, albeit generations apart, makes our friendship special.’’
The 70-year milestone is yet another honour for Bill, who was awarded a life membership from the branch in 2013.
Rochester RSL sub-branch president John Glover (right) honours Bill Pittaway for 70 years of continuous service with the sub-branch.