Written by Kerrie Alexander
To honour God and Country, to show appreciation for those who offer their lives, seeking freedom for us and our children.
We pledge ourselves to this take without self-seeking, without prejudice, always remembering. We also serve.
That is the admirable creed of the Hervey Bay RSL Women’s Auxiliary, whose members have worked tirelessly since 1929 to raise funds to look after ex-service men and women, and local charities.
Hervey Bay’s Esme Fay has been a volunteer with the local association for 20 years and at 90-years-young, is still a highly active member.
The women of the Auxiliary are predominately members who have associations with defence force personnel.
For Esme, it’s honouring her husband Vic – a Navy man who was posted on the HMAS Sydney aircraft carrier for three years during the Korean war.
The two met when they were young and like many proposals back in that day, the celebrations were short lived.
“We got engaged on his 21st birthday and he left the next week for Korea,” Esme said.
“He came back nine months later, one week before our wedding, so I had nine months to do everything on my own. But he did come back.
“We had a nine-month engagement party without seeing each other,” said Vic with a cheeky grin.
“All the planning was done through mail.”
They have now been married for 67 years.
The two worked and lived in Sydney for many years but made the move to Hervey Bay on retirement to be closer to Vic’s sister.
The first order of business for Vic was signing up as a Hervey Bay RSL Sub-Branch member where he volunteered for many years as a pensions and welfare advocate.
The saying goes that behind every great man is a great woman, and there is no doubt that’s Esme.
In honour of her husband, she has volunteered to help raise funds at the Auxiliary’s annual tombola and monthly raffles for many years, with thousands of dollars each year going to the Hervey Bay Special School, Hervey Bay Riding for the Disabled and the Hervey Bay Navy Cadets.
Esme said back in the earlier days, the ladies used to fundraise by catering for weddings and local community balls, with every meal cooked by the members.
Those funds then went to assisting the Hervey Bay RSL Sub- Branch in building their office and continuing their good work in the community.
Now that the Sub-Branch is well established, the funds go to those local charities.
Gathering on Anzac Day to serve the men and women that so bravely fought for our country is a major highlight of Esme’s role with the Auxiliary, she said.
“When I first signed up that was one of the first things I did, and it was wonderful,” Esme said.
“After the Dawn Service, all the service people would come back to the RSL and have their rum and breakfast.
“We used to go to the march and hand out the programs and poppies as people came to the cenotaph and as soon as the march was finished, we’d hot-foot it back to Hervey House to get ready to dish out all the food, and that was that.”
The ladies are also very well-known for offering Fraser Coast residents the chance to add their own personal touch to Anzac Day services in Freedom Park each year.
In the lead up to April 25, the volunteers take turns in manning a Commemorative Crosses table in the foyer of the Hervey Bay RSL.
Attached to each cross, which costs residents $2 to use for the day, is a red poppy and message card for people to write the name of the veteran and a brief message.
The crosses are then positioned in Freedom Park by auxiliary volunteers the night before and looked after by security services.
Esme said the sight of hundreds of crosses all lined up in front of the cenotaph is nothing short of spectacular.
With Anzac Day services going ahead this year, the ladies will once again volunteer their time selling commemorative crosses.
“It’s important for me to do this each year because it’s a tradition, and if we can help others while doing it then that’s a bonus.”
To volunteer or find out more about the RSL Women’s Auxiliary, phone Trish on 0400 242 261.
HERVEY BAY ANZAC DAY SERVICE
The Hervey Bay RSL Sub-Branch will hold COVID safe Commemoration Services at the Light Horse War Memorial in Freedom Park, Pialba.
Due to ongoing restrictions, only ex-service personnel will take part in both marches this year.
DAWN SERVICE: The Dawn Service march will leave the RSL Club at about 0515 hours and the service will start when the march has entered Freedom Park at about 0530 hours.
MAIN SERVICE: The Main March will step-off from the RSL carpark at about 1000 (10am) hours and move to Freedom Park. The service will commence at 1030 hours.
MARYBOROUGH ANZAC DAY SERVICE
DAWN SERVICE: Commences 0545 at Queens Park Cenotaph.
MAIN SERVICE: Starts at 0930 (9.30 am) at Queens Park Cenotaph.
Sign in for both services will be required, please allow ample time for this.
If you are feeling unwell, please stay at home. Residents are still welcome to pay their respects in their driveway should they choose to.