Well known local identity Roger Montrose, who passed away on May 8, five weeks short of his 95th birthday, was remembered for his outstanding leadership and contribution to the community.
“Roger’s care of his sheep, with the help of his dogs, no doubt was acknowledged by people, his care of people in the community as a councillor was acknowledged; his care when he was president of the show society, wanting what was best for people in this community,” Bendigo-based Archdeacon John Geldart told the packed and overflowing congregation at St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church Yarrawonga last Thursday.
“It was a rich contribution to the community.”
Archdeacon Geldart conducted the funeral service in the absence of Rev. Michael Jones who was away on recreation leave.
“Just short of his 95th birthday the young adventurous man who canoed down the river into the lives and hearts of us all, passed away having lived a long and fruitful life, always by that river, a life that was devoted to his family, friends and family.”
That’s how the eulogy, brilliantly delivered by Georgina Burston of Benalla, second cousin of Morrie, Roger’s widow, concluded.
Among the many examples of leadership and contribution by Arthur Roger Montrose was as councillor of the former Yarrawonga Shire Council from 1970 to 1990 which included two stints at different times as shire president over those 20 years.
Before the eulogy, Archdeacon Geldart said Roger was a snappy dresser and added, “Morrie (Roger’s widow) said Roger wouldn’t want the funeral service dull”.
It wasn’t, with mourners soon belting out ‘Morning Has Broken’.
Georgina’s eulogy, most of which is included here, read, “He was a congenial but private man with many interests and a man who lived his life with great enthusiasm.
“Roger was born and educated in Sydney (14/6/1921) and spent much of his childhood and youth in the suburbs of Turramurra and Neutral Bay.
“When World War II broke out Roger joined the Army and was a corporal in the Tank Division, but during the war was disappointed not to have had the opportunity to serve overseas.
“In 1946 he was discharged from the Army and the following year embarked on his own sabbatical. “He boarded a train, along with his canoe from Sydney to Albury.
“On arrival in Albury he launched the canoe on the Murray River and began his adventure as he paddled downstream.
“Along the river upstream from Yarrawonga he met Norman Bott who was stranded with a mechanical breakdown in his war time amphibious vehicle which, with the experience Roger had from the mechanical corp, he was able to fix.
“Little did he know that one day his life would be so intertwined with the Bott family.
“He continued along downstream and stopped along the foreshore at Yarrawonga.
“He took the opportunity to spend some time here, staying at the Royal Mail Hotel.
“He found work with Jack Bott who lived at nearby Naranghi and spent 18 months working for Jack at his other property at Tungamah.
“From there he went to work for Mr Hugh Sloane at Kilnyana near Savernake.
“There he met John Sloane who would also become intertwined with the Bott family, marrying Bert Bott’s eldest daughter and Morrie’s cousin, Margie.
“In those days there was a large group of young people in the district who attended balls, went to the pictures together, went on fox shooting expeditions and through mutual friends Roger found himself one evening at one of the regular sing-a-longs held at a farming property, near Bundalong called Murramine.
“This was the first time he had met the beautiful, young, feisty and capable redhead Morrie Bott, who lived with her mother at this property.
“In 1949 Roger and Morrie were married in Melbourne at St John’s Church in Toorak and had their reception at Scots Hotel. Afterwards they spent their honeymoon at Surfers Paradise, a favourite honeymoon spot at the time.
“After their honeymoon, Roger and Morrie returned to Sydney and headed to Merriwah near Scone, in northern NSW, to a sheep and cattle station where Roger began work as an overseer.
“After a couple of years there the young couple then returned to Bundalong to assist with the management of Murramine.
“This was the beginning of a long and successful partnership working together on the property, running sheep and cattle along with some cropping.
“Roger preferred working with the sheep than the cattle, but the animals he loved the most were his dogs.
“I remember Roger and Bobby would make much noise singing to each other.
“When Roger and Morrie were first married there was no vet in Yarrawonga and Roger, with his good animal husbandry skills, was very intuitive and adept with treating ill and injured animals on the property and in particular the dogs, including coming up with some very inventive splints for repairing fractured limbs.
“Morrie thought he would have made a fine vet.
“Once they had returned to Bundalong they slowly set about building the house by the water at Whyenbah, the process was slow with building material still hard to source post war.
“The site chosen was one that Morrie’s father had picked out many years before and for those of us who visit Whyenbah with the stunning garden that has now been created around this home it was the perfect position, looking out across the lake.
“In 1955 the young couple was thrilled to welcome their son Phillip into the world.
“Roger and Morrie worked very hard on the property and then Roger started to become involved in giving back to his local community.
““He was encouraged by Morrie’s uncle Bert Bott in the late 1960s to become involved in local government and became a shire councillor.
“He was also very involved in various local committees including the Yarrawonga Saleyard Committee and the Foreshore Committee.
“He was also a very active and long standing committee member of the Yarrawonga Show Society, including two terms as president.
“Beyond his local interests he was passionate about the then Country Party and now National Party, spending many decades as a party member.
“He worked closely with local members, Keith Bradbury and Ken Jasper.
“He was always very involved with party conferences and elections and was campaign committee chairman for Ken Jasper.
“Morrie thought if he had his life over again he would have made the perfect politician.
“Roger and Morrie loved to travel.
“During his childhood Roger had travelled extensively overseas with his mother and later in life he and Morrie travelled to England and Europe, and also Japan as a representative for the Yarrawonga Shire.
“Roger was also a staunch monarchist, but so too was Morrie and one event not to be missed for them both was the royal wedding in 1981 of Charles and Diana.
“They travelled to London and camped out for the night along the procession route to ensure that they had a prime position to watch the royal cavalcade from Buckingham Palace to St Paul’s Cathedral and back again.
“He loved the experience and enjoyed the patriotism not only of the English but the Australians as well.
“In the mid 1980s Phillip came home to work full time on the farm and Roger and Morrie were able to slow down - just a little.
“But there was still plenty of other activities to keep Roger very busy.
“During his life Morrie had mentioned he was always keen to ‘have a go’ at any sport, and enjoyed playing golf, tennis and bowls.
“He loved shooting and duck season and in particular fishing.
“He had a permanent line with a cane fixed to the end of the jetty in the garden and it is still there today.
“My childhood memories include fishing with Roger in the tinny on the lake in front of the house at Whyenbah, sitting for what seemed like hours jagging for red fin.
“Roger taught swimming to children with the learn-to-swim program.
“He also taught me how to swim; he would have the lessons under the willows along the foreshore of Lake Mulwala.
“Roger was a wonderful host and loved have people around him and was so interested in people, both young and old, and we all loved to be entertained by Morrie and Roger at Whyenbah.
“Before Roger’s 90th birthday, he and Morrie were so thrilled with the news that Philip was to marry Cheryl and have the wedding on the property by the lake.
“Roger adored her and I know he was very excited to welcome Cheryl along with her three wonderful sons into the family.
“The following year he had major heart surgery and life certainly slowed down for him after that. “Roger spent the last 18 months quietly at home with incredible love, care and support from Morrie, Philip and Cheryl.
“There were also some respite in local nursing homes in Yarrawonga.”
Roger passed away at North East Health Wangaratta.
The funeral cortege moved to the Burramine General Cemetery.
A wake was held at Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort.
Funeral arrangements were handled by Yarrawonga-Mulwala Funeral Services.