A LIFELONG connection with a variety of aspects of the Mortlake community has seen Merv Hampson receive a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
The current president of the Mortlake Returned and Services League (RSL) sub-branch said the news had come as a “complete surprise”.
Born and raised in Mortlake, Mr Hampson’s life has taken him far and wide, with achievements within the RSL and the local community.
Mr Hampson spent nine years in the Royal Australian Navy from 1958 to 1967 as a stoker petty officer on the HMAS Voyager and the HMAS Vendetta.
His journeys took him through areas such as Borneo and Vietnam.
During his first leave period, he met Valmay, his wife of almost 58 years.
“It was a very interesting and varied life,” Mr Hampson said.
Tours often lasted nine months at a time, with leave periods as short as 13 days.
“I guess the Navy was pretty stretched in them times,” Mr Hampson said.
Despite having to leave his family for months at a time, he said he looked back on his time with the Navy fondly.
“It was hard on married people,” Mr Hampson said.
He recalled a time when he did not recognise his son Brian after a tour.
Once he returned to Mortlake in 1967, he took over his father’s fencing business.
However, Mr Hampson also felt a drive to become involved in a number of other groups as well.
“The first thing I did when I got back was join the fire brigade, the RSL and the footy club,” he said.
“I knew I had the skills to join the fire brigade.”
With the CFA, Mr Hampson has been involved in half a dozen fires across the state, including in Corryong in the state’s north east.
He became a life member in 2004 and received the CFA National Medal in 2008 and a 35 Year Service Award in 2014.
With the Mortlake RSL sub-branch, he has been a member since 1967, serving a brief stint as president from 1975 to 1977 and then holding the position from 2007.
Mr Hampson said the highlight of his time with the RSL was receiving the Meritorious Service Medal – the highest honour within the organisation – in 2014.
“That was the proudest thing for me,” he said.
Crediting the help of secretary John McGuigan in attracting members in recent times, Mr Hampson said the current membership of about 40 was positive compared to only eight members at the club’s lowest.
However, he also remembered when the club welcomed 80 to 90 members to each meeting.
“I think the RSL here is going well at present,” Mr Hampson said.
“It was a great achievement that we’ve built the place up.”
He said selling Anzac and Remembrance Day badges annually as a particular highlight of his involvement with the RSL, as well as speaking annually at Mortlake P-12 College and Abbeyfield House.
Mr Hampson was also one of the founding members of the south west branch of the Naval Association of Australia about 13 years ago.
He was the vice president of the branch from 2006 to 2013, the president until 2017 and returned to the vice president’s role.
An integral life member of the Mortlake Football Club (now the Terang Mortlake Football Netball Club), Mr Hampson said he was a “committee man” and a “dogsbody” around the ground.
Mr Hampson’s other roles around the community included as a former volunteer driver for the Terang and Mortlake Health Service transporting patients who were unable to travel independently.
“That was a very satisfying job,” he said.
“They were all lovely people.”
Mr Hampson was also the president and a life member of the now-dissolved Mortlake Angling Club.
He also received an award recognising his contribution to the Mortlake and district community as part of Moyne Shire Council’s 2009 Australia Day awards.
Speaking about Mortlake, Mr Hampson said while he and his wife had travelled to England, New Zealand and around Australia, his heart would always remain in Mortlake.
“I just like the place,” he said.
“It’s a nice, quiet town.
“We’ve had enough of cities.”
Mr Hampson thanked his fellow RSL members for their support over the years, as well as the Mortlake community.
“I thank whoever it was that put the nomination in,” he said.
Now retired for a number of years, Mr Hampson said he always strived to remain active and supportive of the local community, including helping with greenskeeping duties at the Mortlake Golf Club two days a week.
“I cannot bear to be idle,” he said.
“I’ve just got to be doing something all the time.
“I don’t do it for the reward. I just like to do things.”