By Ian Blyth
THERE is a long standing myth about becoming a local in a country town – either your grandmother was born here or you have lived here for 30 years.
Roger Fletcher rewrote the rule book on that theory.
Within a year of moving from Melbourne to Heathcote Junction, Roger was a presenter on local radio station OKR-FM and an active participant in a host of community groups.
Roger showed us all that being a member of a community was founded more in making a significant contribution to your community than serving that 30-year apprenticeship and Roger’s contributions were indeed significant.
But even more significant was the humble man who preferred to compliment others for an achievement rather than take the kudos for himself.
This is best illustrated when following the memorial service for Wandong resident Robert Bamford, who died in mid-April last year.
Roger organised the memorial that he said “was motivated entirely from the community.”
“I thought it was an excellent turnout. I think it’s a great illustration of the community in Wandong-Heathcote Junction,” Roger said humbly at the time.
At 11.40am on Monday, January 6, Roger Fletcher lost his two-year battle with cancer with his wife Lee and family by his bedside.
So passed a great community member – gone but never to be forgotten.
Beyond, or possibly because of, his involvement with his guests on OKR-FM, Roger became an active member of many community organisations.
Mitchell Suicide Prevention, Positive Ageing Ambassadors, Rotary, Love in Action – he was passionate about the community social welfare group – all benefited from his membership and support.
Phil Clancy recalls Roger attending the national suicide prevention conference in Darwin.
“Roger went there as our delegate and came back with a host of contacts that expanded our network throughout Victoria. He told me that being a local organisation was not enough. If we really wanted to serve our communities we needed to develop a strong network. Thanks to Roger that network exists to this day,” Mr Clancy said.
The story is the same with Mitchell’s positive ageing ambassadors.
Fellow ambassador Alan Edwards recalls Roger as an influence that provided a focus and direction.
Roger Fletcher was born on July 4, 1933 in Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, England with his childhood influenced by the war years.
He was educated at the Royal Russell School in Leighton Buzzard and it was here that he made his mark as a rather impressing all-round sportsman – excelling in cricket, rugby, soccer boxing and athletics.
Some decades later Roger wore his old school tie to a charity volunteer’s event in Melbourne organised to meet Prince Charles.
The Prince recognised Roger’s tie and came over for a chat.
“It made my day,” Roger was to say later.
“And I was able to inform him that as a school boy I visited the palace to donate nursery furniture that my schoolmates and I had built for the Prince’s first birthday.”
Roger’s journey to Australia came by chance when the company he was working for in the late 1980s advised him they were opening branches in South Africa and Australia – Roger chose Australia.
“My choice was a fine line of destiny,” Roger told his wife Lee some years later.
Roger and Lee met in 1993 and were married a year later in 1994.
They ‘merged’ their two families of five children into one that has now grown to an extended family of eight grandchildren.
Looking back it is not only Roger’s family that has enjoyed that fine line of destiny – there are many in our community who have also benefited.
A memorial service for Roger Fletcher will be at Kilmore Trackside at 11am on Friday, January 24.
The family have requested in lieu of flowers there will be a donation box for Roger’s two favourite charities Love in Action and Mitchell Suicide Prevention.