The Whittlesea township came together last month to celebrate and reflect on the life of a local icon, Roy Ivan ‘Rodger’ Hawke, who died at the age of 89.
Mr Hawke was known by many in the community as a life member of the Whittlesea Agricultural Society, a local builder, member of Whittlesea and Mernda Presbyterian Church and committed family man.
He was born in April 1933 to parents William and Mildred Hawke, moving to Whittlesea with his family at five years old.
From inauspicious beginnings as a carpenter building outhouses in Reservoir, Mr Hawke created his own business, building houses with a signature triple-fronted cream brick veneer and a terracotta tiled roof.
His daughter Andrea said Mr Hawke’s eldest son Roylen joined him after leaving school.
“Their work was well regarded and complements still flow on the craftmanship of their buildings,” she said.
Mr Hawke married his wife Beverly, nee Scholz, in March 1961, eventually welcoming six children – Roylen, Andrea, Adele, Lyndon, Nigel and Caroline – and 18 grandchildren during 61 years of marriage.
Andrea said her father was a proud member of the Whittlesea township, inviting people to the Whittlesea Agricultural Show ‘at every opportunity’.
“Attending the sheep dog trials, the Boxing Day rodeo, the Whittlesea Anzac Day parade and the community Christmas carols provided the family with wonderful memories,” she said.
Whittlesea Agricultural Society life member Judy Clements remembered Mr Hawke as a past president of the society who served with distinction.
“Rodger’s memories of the [Whittlesea] Showgrounds went back many years – remembering the galvanized iron fence around the showgrounds in the pre-war years,” she said.
“In 1974, he served as president of the society. He later claimed that year ‘could well be termed the year of the great decision’.
“The weather in the days leading up to the show had been extremely wet and there was considerable doubt as to whether the show would take place. The day before the show, the executive met and decided the commitment of the people to attend regardless would be too great, and so the decision was made that the show must go on.
“Record takings proved the right decision had been made. However, the grounds were so wet that a crossing had to be made across Scrubby Creek as the cattle were on one side of the creek and the grand parade on the other. The cattle crossed the creek, took part in the parade, returned across the creek and within minutes the flood had washed the crossing away.”
During Mr Hawke’s tenure as president the show presented new and innovative attractions including musical fountains, something Ms Clements described as a ‘turning point’ for future shows.
The society also moved to a two-day show under Mr Hawke’s leadership.
“Throughout Rodger’s time as president and beyond, he was ably supported by Bev, described as the power force behind Rodger,” Ms Clements said.
“Their combined efforts, organisation and hard work saw a focus on annual entertainment held on a stage in the Chandler Pavilion.”
Whittlesea Agricultural Society made Mr Hawke a life member in 1981 in recognition of his outstanding service. In 2019 Mr Hawke received a 55-year long service award.
But while he left a lasting legacy with the society, Andrea said her father’s greatest gift was kindness to those around him.
“Dad grew up in the school of hard knocks but he remained a sensitive man,” she said.
“He frequently told us ‘you don’t know how lucky you are’.”