THE death in July of Moruya community stalwart Les Ziegler has left a hole in many hearts and service groups.
The man who, with his wife Merle, began and ran a volunteer marine rescue service from a South Head kitchen table in the 1960s is grieved widely.
Marriage celebrant Max Hogno said he had steadfastly refused to conduct memorial services because they affected him too much, but could not keep that rule for his dear friend.
He described a young man who worked hard in the family kiosk and with his father, Harry, helped build a club house for Moruya Surf Club.
He drove buses, cranes and the first earthmoving equipment in the Eurobodalla.
He was a “can do” man.
“No fuss, the job would be done,” Mr Hogno said.
He was made a life member of the surf club in 1995.
“He was the cornerstone and president for many years of the Moruya Fishing Club,” Mr Hogno said.
“Les, with trusty sidekick Merline, provided sterling service to the area through the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol with Les conducting rescues in all types of weather with his boat.
“They provided this service for many years before the bureaucrats, for the want of a better word, re-constructed coastal surveillance.”
Somehow he found time to restore old vehicles, joining his local restoration club.
“Les got the restoration bug, restoring to their former glory a Fordson tractor and the old truck used by his father,” Mr Hogno said.
“Then followed more vehicles and a task of great joy, his latest adventure, restoring a wooden boat.”
A bus driver, he drove for the Sydney Olympic Games and continued to drive school buses in his alleged retirement.
Mr Hogno said Les would have hated the downtime his illness imposed.
“Les would have been rankled by the inactivity these last few months - jobs he perceived needed doing and restorations to be continued,” he said.
“Recently, I had the opportunity to share coffee with Les, sitting in the morning sun, gazing out over the Tasman Sea and, of course, the surf club. That cup of coffee will be remembered.”
Moruya Surf Club’s Mike Hallahan said Mr Ziegler had been involved for 50 of the club’s 80 years.
“Les was always available to help out and Moruya Surf Club has benefited greatly from his ‘can do’ attitude,” he said.
“Speaking with him recently, he was most apologetic that he had missed a meeting.”
If not for the “sandbagging efforts of members like Les, the sea would have claimed the clubhouse” during a 1975 storm.
He described a man who made things happen rather than “running the ship”.
“If a job needed to be done or materials sourced, Les would step forward. He was a great example to the rest of us that you don’t have to be a lifesaver to be an active member of a surf club.”
“When we look around the club today there are so many items we would not have except for Les.”
He sourced building materials and was ever on the watch for a bargain for the club.
“He would regularly scour the papers for anything being sold that might benefit the Club in some way. Sometimes it was cutlery while other times it may be tents.
“Only a couple of weeks ago, although visibly ill, Les was organising his contacts to supply paint to resurface the floor of the clubhouse.
“He also mentioned not to forget a fundraiser he had organised with the Car Club for July – next year!”
In charge of the ski referee’s boat for the George Bass Marthon, Les had “the perfect job for a man in a very fast Big Yellow Boat who loved to go fast”.
That boat saved many a life and Merle continues that work, with the bank of radios in her kitchen not disappearing anytime soon.
“I want to thank everyone for their kindness and sympathy cards,” Mrs Ziegler said this week with special thanks to the surf club, community nurses, Dr Chris Fenn and Moruya Hospital.
He leaves five children and many grandchildren and will miss the birth of his first great-grandchild later this year.
“He was a good father,” Mrs Ziegler said. “He did everything well.”
Daughter Kerrie Nettle said she was “always proud” of her parents as a child.
“It was just normal, saving people all the time,” she said.
Son Chris remembers a father who “always helped me with anything”.