Ray receives OAM honour

By James Bennett

‘‘Give a little of yourself each day and expect nothing in return; one day you might be pleasantly surprised.’’

That is the principle Ray Koschel lives by, and why the dedicated community man was added to the growing list of local Order of Australia Medal recipients on Monday.

Ray was named as a recipient of the distinguished medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, ‘‘for service to the Finley community’’.

He is the second Finley resident to be bestowed an honour this year, with John Hand named in the Australia Day honours in January.

Ray now joins his brother as an OAM, with Len a recipient in 1995.

Ray, 88, has been heavily involved in the Finley community since the early 1950s.

He is a life member and former secretary of Probus Club, Finley Bowling Club and the Show Society.

He played an important role helping to establish the swimming pool in the town and has worked on management committees at the Recreation Reserve and Showgrounds.

The great-grandfather of 25 said it was ‘‘exciting and surprising’’ to receive an OAM.

‘‘It’s great to learn I’ve joined the other recipients in the district. I’m a little humbled about it,’’ he said.

‘‘I helped write the OAM nomination forms for Ellis Thornton, John Hand, John Bolitho and Henry Matheson. I have no idea who nominated me, and maybe it’s best I don’t know.

‘‘There are many people so deserving in Finley who have been part of auxiliaries and other groups all of their lives, and it would be nice to see them not only nominated but also receiving one.’’

Ray said growing up and living in a town like Finley leaves no other option but to volunteer.

‘‘Because Marie (my wife) and I had five children here in Finley, it was easy to become involved with so many things.

‘‘I suppose one thing leads to another. If you accomplish one thing, you can say ‘we’re a small country town, we’ve got to be open and loose with everything going on’.

‘‘Look at the things Finley has raised as a community — the nursing home, swimming pool, lights at the football oval. Everyone pulled their weight and that still happens today.’’

Now retired, Ray worked with the former Water Resources in Finley for 40 years.

These days he’s best known for his involvement with the Finley Bowling Club.

‘‘I started bowling in the 1950s,’’ he said.

‘‘Marie’s father (Bill Larsen) became the greenkeeper at the club and that introduced her to bowls, so it wasn’t long before I started.

‘‘I’ve won each of the singles championships at the bowls club, except the club championship.

‘‘After I bowled for a while I became involved, taking on the vice presidency and presidency.

‘‘I became the treasurer when the club was getting low on funds. I did that for about 10 years in the 1970s and ‘80s.’’

Ray was the founding secretary of the Finley Probus Club when it was formed in 2000. It is a group of retired or semi-retired professionals and business owners.

Ray has also served as the group’s president, and is now a life member.

‘‘Probus is a friendship club,’’ he said.

‘‘P-R-O stands for professional and B-U-S stands for business but anyone with the joining fee in their pocket can sign up.

‘‘It brings retired people together and we meet once a month for lunch. There are also tours away and usually a guest speaker.

‘‘I don’t get along to the meetings as often as I used to, though.’’

Ray said his involvement with the swimming pool committee, a popular summer attraction, has also been from the beginning.

He was a member of the committee formed to help establish the pool in the 1960s.

‘‘During the war years, the locals decided we needed a swimming pool but nothing really came about from it,’’ he said.

‘‘It started again in 1962 and that’s why I became involved. We fundraised throughout the district and secured grants under the Berrigan Shire banner.

‘‘But the town also needed to run the pool and that’s when I went through the hoops as president, secretary and treasurer.

‘‘One year we didn’t have a swimming pool manager so I took six weeks off work and, with another volunteer, ran the pool for the season.’’

The early days of fundraising for the pool’s maintenance costs created a spectacle for the community of Finley.

Ray said the fundraiser was usually held at New Year, and took the form of an old fashion mardi gras. Ray was the promoter.

‘‘The mardi gras was set up to help raise funds for the operations of the pool. The street would be decorated and there was a street procession with floats.

‘‘It was entertainment and amusement, and would work up Murray St then head down Warmatta St (now Pinnuck St).

‘‘The swimming pool ran it for a few years before it took place at the football ground for a small time.’’

Ray has also played a role in the local media throughout his years as a community volunteer, particularly local sport.

He spent four years as the Finley reporter for 2QN Sports Talk on Saturday mornings and has continued his sports reporting as the Finley Bowling Club’s weekly ‘‘scribe’’ for the Southern Riverina News.

With other OAM recipients announced Monday, Ray is expected to receive his medal in an official investiture ceremony later this year.