The last man stand­ing, Bill clocks up 70 years

Campaspe News - - NEWS - — Rusty Woodger

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.

Photo: sub­mit­ted

Rochester RSL sub-branch pres­i­dent John Glover (right) hon­ours Bill Pit­t­away for 70 years of con­tin­u­ous ser­vice with the sub-branch.

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