Service surprise

Roger Boness with RSL members, moments after the presentation. 196520 Picture: ROB CAREW

There a few men more humble than Roger Boness.

The Mount Evelyn RSL president was quick to direct attention back to his sub-branch mates when presented with RSL Australia Life Membership on Thursday 8 August.

“I am not the RSL. We are all the RSL,” he told them.

“You are all as equally important to this organisation as you may deem me to be.

“I couldn’t find a better group of people if I tried.”

A newly-retired Mr Boness came on board as president in 2011 after then-president Derek Crittenden became unwell.

“We are now fully integrated as a very important part of our Mount Evelyn community,” he said.

“It’s been an incredible journey with an incredible group of people.”

He spoke highly of their support throughout his tenure, but particularly during his recent cancer battle.

“I’m kicking goals – my hair’s coming back,” he said.

“So look out, I’m still a force to be reckoned with.”

Mr Boness received a list of the club’s 80 members when he took on the presidency, but soon discovered the actual membership base was much lower – many had passed away.

Today the club has 120 members – more than the Lilydale RSL, secretary Anthony McAleer declared to cheers, applause and laughs at the presentation.

Conscription into the Australian Army in 1966 interrupted Mr Boness’ promising football career with St Kilda.

He volunteered to serve his country at the end of his national service, and between 1967 and 1968 saw active service in Vietnam with the 106th Field Battery, 4th Field Regiment.

He joined the Mount Evelyn RSL in 1976, but was quick to point out that work commitments kept him from being an “active” member at that time.

Mr Boness has more than made up for that.

He created a Thursday afternoon friendship group for retired members and organises outings and excursions for them.

“Our number one role is welfare,” he said.

He oversaw a complete make-over at the Mount Evelyn War Memorial, and set up strong partnerships with the town’s history group, community link, schools, youth shed, St John Ambulance, football and netball club, CFA, Scouts and Christian Reformed Church.

Mr Boness looked after the family of a member called up for active service in Afghanistan, and arranged for school students to write letters to a soldier serving overseas.

He proudly told the Mail that the pokies-free sub-branch shared material donations with the community, loaned wheelchairs and walkers to anyone in need, cut people’s hedges and mowed lawns.

“Anyone in the community who needs a hand, we give them a hand,” he said.

“Everyone’s part of our area of responsibility.

“They’re one of us.”

Mr Boness’ efforts led to the Mount Evelyn RSL being named Mount Evelyn Chamber of Commerce’s Community Group of the Year in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

He was named the Victorian Senior Citizens (Veteran) of the Year in 2017 and received the Yarra Ranges Council Mayoral Lifetime Achievement Award.