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Ron Moreillon - much Loved and Respected in the Bannockburn Community

Bannockburn lost one of its most loved and respected members recently with the passing of Ron Moreillon.

Ron  was born in Geelong on 31st August 1925 and lived his whole life here in Bannockburn, firstly on the east side of High Street and then, after marrying Joan Longmore in 1950, making the big move across the street to a new house directly opposite.  

His early life saw him spending a lot of time at the family business – a produce store started around 1870 and still around, operating as the local Home Timber and Hardware shop. He would eventually take the store over from his father and operate it until retirement in 1987. 

Ron attended the primary school here in Bannockburn until 8th grade, obtaining the Merit certificate, enticed by the promise of a new Malvern Star. After that (1939), he spent 3 years as a boarder at Geelong College. It was here with regular visits to the House of Guilds across the road, that Ron built his first crystal set, thus starting off his lifelong passion for all things electronics.

After his 3 years at College, Ron commenced work at the Union Bank on the corner of Moorabool and Ryrie Streets, but didn’t last long there as the family produce store required his young strong body.  You see, in the early days, Ron and his father bought and sold grain, shipping it out by rail. The wheat bags of the day weighed 80kg and Ron tells the story of how he and Frank Kelly loaded 600 bags in one day.  As you can see, he worked hard from the earliest of days. 

As they progressed from horse and dray for deliveries to motor vehicles, Ron delivered produce and eventually fuel, gas and other hardware all around the district. Once he had a truck, it was nothing to drive to Melbourne, pick up produce or wire, drive home, unload (with the help of Joan and their two boys, Doug and Ian) before heading off on deliveries. 

In those days, you could trust most people and the store was often left unattended while they crossed the road to the bank or the house for lunch. People just waited, or else they found what they wanted and left a note. It was all pretty easy going.

The family business evolved over time and quickly moved from predominately a grain and stock foods business to hardware, fuel and farm supplies.  Many a day was spent in the truck delivering both 44 gallon drums, bulk fuel and supplies to local farms and businesses.  He also broadened his skills and learnt to weld, where he produced wanted items such as farm gates, stock yards, fences, and the like which were all manufactured on-site in a small workshop built behind the store. 

In reality, the store became so much more than just a shop. It was a playground for his boys and their friends, a de-facto community drop-in centre where people just came to chat and pass the time, and of course it also became the local CFA communications centre.

Some Family History
Julius Moreillon, emigrated to Australia from either Switzerland or France (not absolutely sure) and settled at Bannockburn, then known as "Leigh Road" where in the 1850's he built what became known as the Western Inn, or Hotel. This was located where the Bendigo Bank sits today. After changing hands many times, it burnt down in 1971 (operating as a shop).

In 1854, Julius Moreillon married Bridget O'Halloran and had nine children, one of whom was Rons Grandfather, Henri (Henry) Moreillon, Snr. He was born in Ballarat, and married Eliza Victoria Honour, from Durdidwarrah. They lived in Bannockburn and had seven children, one of whom was Rons father, Henry Augustus Moreillon.

On the death of his father Julius Snr. in 1896, Henri took over the Hotel which remained in the Moreillon family until the licence was surrendered in 1919, when Rons grandfather retired to Geelong, and his father who had been running a small produce store from a shed beside the Hotel, moved over to the other side of the street to set up what was to become the family produce store until 1987. 

Ron and Joan moved into their new home which Ron had completed just before the wedding.  In fact this house is still the family home today.  Money was scarce, so Ron dug all the foundations himself and even created his own wall tiling using Masonite and a grooving tool. This still exists in the bathroom and is still a source of amazement to his descendants.

Family Life and interests
Because of his commitment to the business, but probably more the local fire brigade (CFA) and local community activities, Ron and the family only ever managed a maximum of one week’s holiday each year. That was over Easter and they never holidayed far from home. 

Ron started an interest in electronics during his time at college and continued that throughout his life. It manifested in the building and repair of many radios, culminating, in those early years with Ron building the family’s first TV, way back in the early 60’s. It was built from scratch, on the kitchen floor. 

At an early age, Ron began acquiring and building Public Address gear and regularly hired himself out for many school sports days, functions and even the CFA demonstration events at the showgrounds.  

His interest continued into retirement, where he took up a video camera, which became a constant companion to Joan & Rons many trips around Australia.  

Well into his late 70’s his son Doug gave him a second hand computer and Ron took to that with relish and quickly became the writer of articles for many a local community newsletter, communicating all by email.  He especially loved it when he received an email from the grand kids. He also used the computer to write his memoirs which quickly became an obsession which the family is so fortunate to have today - a 50,000 word documented history of not only his life but also the history and personalities of Bannockburn over the years. This new found interest in historical writing saw him become a bit of a go-to person for local history.

Ron also had a passion for music, especially Brass Bands, Swing bands of the 40’s and Hymns. In earlier years Ron even took it to the streets at Christmas time, broadcasting Christmas Carols from his front yard to the town via his PA speakers. 

It is fair to say that from 1944 until his death, Rons second family was the fire brigade - the CFA. Sometimes it even seemed to take precedence, but the family always understood. And it was a partnership with Joan and she was often just as involved as he. From the role of Secretary on his first day as a member in 1944, to 1st Lieutenant, numerous communication officer positions and eventually Region Control, Ron lived and breathed the CFA, both locally and regionally.  As Region Control, he coordinated the communications for Region 7, covering areas as far as Lorne, Winchelsea, Meredith, Anakie, Little River and the Bellarine peninsula.  He did all this, from the office of the family store during the day, and at home overnight. All while still running the business with help of Joan. During the height of a local fire, it was nothing to see the street outside the store, filled with fire tankers instead of farmers trucks. The 1969 fires were particularly memorable. The store office /CFA comms room was open 24 hours a day and with Ron in control of all radio traffic he actually spent 50 straight hours in that office ensuring that all was well co-ordinated.

From being heavily involved in obtaining Bannockburn’s first ever, second fire truck, a brigade built and funded ex-International Harvester test truck, to seeing him climbing the tall pine tree behind the Store to check for smoke, he lived and breathed the CFA.

Until his final days, Ron still kept an interest, listening to the fire radio at home, reading Captain Barry Planners emails and even following the comings and goings on his pager, right up to and even including his recent time in the Bannockburn Aged Care home.

His tireless work as a CFA volunteer was acknowledged at his thanksgiving service through the presence of Assistant Chief Officer Bob Barry, and members of the many local brigades that Ron associated with over the years. Bob spoke of Ron’s commitment to the CFA and even brought words and thoughts from Euan Fergusson, Chief Officer of the CFA who was unable to attend the service.

During his time as a Bannockburn Fire brigade member, his service was recognised with the following awards:

•  Ron & Joan were presented with National fire service medals in 1990
•  Both received Long Service Awards from the CFA in 1997
•  Ron was made a Life Member of the Bannockburn Rural Fire Brigade in 1999. 
•  Ron was made an honorary Life Member of the Country Fire Authority, with he and Joan receiving CFA "Outstanding Service" awards.
•  Presented with a plaque by the Rural and Urban Fire Brigades Association ( Region 7 ) CFA.

If he was not busy enough, Ron still found time to actively contribute to many of the local Bannockburn community activities, including membership and officer bearer on many committees. 

• Ron played tennis and was Association Secretary for 13 years, becoming a life member.

• He spent 35 years on the Public Hall committee, Secretary for many of those. He MC’d the local dances as well, each fortnight for many years.  

• He also spent 35 years on the Bannockburn Cemetery trust.

• 20 years on the Park committee, and several years on the Primary School committee

• A Geelong West Rotarian for a number of years, fitting in lunchtime meetings whilst in Geelong picking up goods for the store in the truck..

• He attended the Russell’s Bridge Presbyterian Church and now the Bannockburn Community Church all his life and was Secretary for 49 years (until his death) and elder for 40 years. He played his part in the calling of several ministers as well as in the relocation of the Church to Bannockburn. He continued to operate the sound desk within the church until late 2014.

• Member of the Bannockburn Public Hall Committee from January 1945 to August 1980 and was Secretary for many years during that time.

• Secretary of the Bannockburn District Tennis Association from 1949 to 1962. Made a Life member of the Association on 9th. October 1987.

• Trustee of the Bannockburn Cemetery Trust from 1960 to 1995.

• Member of the Bannockburn Park Committee for about 20 years.

• Member of the Bannockburn School Committee for several years.

• Secretary of the Russell's Bridge Presbyterian Church from 1965 to his death.

• Elder at the Church from 1966 to 2006.

• Founding member of Bannockburn Probus

• The Corio Rotary Club honoured Ron in 1995 by awarding him a "Paul Harris Fellowship", the highest award in Rotary, for his work with the CFA over many years. 

• Awarded the Alan J. Holding Community Service award by the Bannockburn Lions Club.

• Awarded Golden Plains Shire Citizen of the Year  in 1998 

In the later years of retirement he was often seen sitting on the front fence watching Bannockburn go about its business. It didn’t bother him that the town had changed so much from his early days. In many ways, it made life a little easier, with supermarkets, shops, doctors and every other possible need available only a short walk from the house. 

As Ron became frailer in more recent times, he was not as active as he once was, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t actively interested in what was going on around him. And he just found other less active things to occupy his time. Historical writing, reading, crosswords and observing the activities of Bannockburn became his daily activities. His health eventually failed further and after a couple of hospital visits, he moved into the Bannockburn Aged Care Home for a relatively short stay before passing away on 18th December 2014.

Thank you Ron for such a wonderful contribution to your community.