Wingham Rotarian retires from Rotary after 44 years

Bill Freman with wife Merlin (Merle) with Wingham Rotary president Dave Sullings (standing) at a special evening to honour Bill's contribution to Rotary.
Bill Freman with wife Merlin (Merle) with Wingham Rotary president Dave Sullings (standing) at a special evening to honour Bill's contribution to Rotary.

BILL Freeman has retired from the Rotary Club of Wingham after more than 44 years as a Rotary member.

He was farewelled at a special celebration night on April 19 at Wingham Golf Club attended by 45 people including Wingham Rotary members and their partners.

Wingham Rotary president Dave Sullings made a presentation of Bill's achievements spanning his Rotary career and assistant district governor Bruce Moy also spoke, speaking fondly of his long friendship with Bill. 

Ian Herd presented Bill with a bunch of flowers and a wall clock with an engraved plaque.

"Bill is well respected by everyone," Dave Sullings said.

"He's been a good stabling influence with members and for the past 10 years he's been a good mentor to me." 

Bill was the inaugural president of the newly created New Lambton Club in 1972 and remained with the club until taking early retirement in 1986. 

A move to Craven near Gloucester followed and Bill joined the local Rotary club and was also elected a councillor.

Bill and his wife Merlin moved to Wingham in July 1990, as Merlin had been appointed to start a new palliative care service in Taree.

It wasn't long before Bill was approached to join Wingham Rotary, becoming president in 1994.

Around this time planning began to get a town clock and potential repairs to the bottom stables were investigated by Rotary.

Bill continued on as president of the club in 1995-1996 during which time the clock became a reality and repairs to the stables were completed.

Towards the end of the 1990s Bill was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow and a further term as president followed.

During this period Bill and Merlin hosted exchange students through Rotary from Japan, South Africa and Canada.

Over the years Bill attended many conferences with the International Convention in Singapore being a special highlight and in 1998 he took a group study team to India for a month.

An important project for Bill was starting RYAG Dairy as a Rotary Club project. The first RYAG Dairy was held at the Wingham Showground in 2003 hosted by Bill and Merlin together with Brian and Jean Leggott.

The next big project Bill and Brian teamed up on and pushed to achieve for Wingham was a men's shed.

While the initial idea was not readily accepted, principally because of the cost involved, Bill and Brian persevered and applied for a number of grants.

The break through occurred when they were awarded a federal grant of $53,000 and were well supported by a successful Rotary expo and generous donations by members Noreida Fotheringham, the late Fred Heuke and Ron and Helen Hindmarsh.

A further major contribution was the completion of earth works by the late Col Hoad and the supervision and construction by Marshall Meaker at no cost.

Most of the members chipped in and did much of the hands on work to complete the project.

The Wingham Men's Shed has since received several grants for extensions and the purchase of new machinery. It now boasts 40 members and Bill has been the secretary since the opening in 2009.

In 2015 the shed members acknowledged Bill's contribution by granting life membership.

"He'll be sorely missed," admits Dave Sullings.

"He doesn't pull any punches and he gets stuff done."

Bill's philosophy is that it is an obligation if you live in a community to contribute to the best of your skills and ability.