Tuesday, 10 September 2019
It is with great personal sadness that I rise tonight to note the passing of Launceston businessman and Rotary stalwart Lewis 'Lew' Pretorius on 10 August this year at the age of 77. Lew will be sorely missed by his family, his extended family and his large circle of friends.
Lew Pretorius gave 50 years service to Apex and Rotary clubs and served in leadership positions at the club, region, state, national and international level. He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2013 for 'significant service to the community of Tasmania and to Rotary International'.
Lew was born in South Africa in 1942 and emigrated to Australia in 1964. For a brief period he lived in Sydney, where he met and married his beautiful wife, Jan. The couple moved to Tasmania in 1966, where Lew was naturalised and worked initially with George Harvey Electrics before establishing the hardware manufacturer's agent business L. & J. Pretorius in 1977.
Lew's long and distinguished dedication to community service began in 1967, when he joined the Tamar Apex club in Launceston and became involved in numerous service and fundraising activities. He was club president from 1974 to 1975. Lew developed the Apex club's connection with the Japan-Australia Youth Fellowship Association and World Youth Visit Exchange Association. He initiated the club's involvement in Launceston's annual children's Christmas parade and established the Christmas tree of joy, later carried on by the ABC. He also introduced the club to hosting Rotary Youth Exchange students, and he and Jan hosted three students during his time in Apex. Lew was honoured with life membership of Apex in November 1982 and became district governor in 1977-78.
In 1983 Lew reached the maximum age for Apex membership, so he then joined Rotary. It was through Rotary that I first became acquainted with Lew and Jan and their family. Lew served for many years on the board of the Rotary Club of Central Launceston in a variety of roles, again active in general club service and fundraising activities. He was club president in 1998-99, and Lew and Jan and their family continued to host youth exchange students.
Lew was the district secretary of Rotary District 9830 in 1990-91 and was on the district committee for group study exchange in 1989-90. From 1994, he was on the Rotary Foundation Committee, serving as chairman from 2003 to 2006 and was group study team leader to Japan in 1997. He was district governor from 2001 to 2002, a period when Rotary membership in the district increased to 1,516, and he was the first Tasmanian district governor to appoint female assistant governors.
Following his term as Rotary district governor, Lew continued to serve Rotary in Tasmania, within Australia and overseas through his Rotary International activities. Some of the successful projects he was involved in include boiling water wells in India; food producing, water wells and educational projects in the Philippines; an eye project in Nepal; and housing, hospital and school refurbishment projects in Fiji. He also assisted clubs throughout Tasmania between 2004 and 2012 to successfully apply for grants for a wide range of community projects.
During the period 2004 to 2012, Lew held numerous Rotary national zone positions, including operations director of Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children, ROMAC, which facilitated bringing children to Australia for corrective surgery which could not be performed in their own countries. Children brought in during this period were from Cambodia, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and China. Lew and Jan personally hosted a young Vietnamese girl and her mother in Launceston during and subsequent to her surgery.
Lew was the southern regional project coordinator for Rotary Australia World Community Service, or RAWCS, which sent teams to the Solomon Islands, PNG, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Malawi, Cambodia, Nepal, China, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Vietnam, East Timor and the Philippines; he was well travelled! Rotary International bestowed the following awards on Lew for outstanding service: the Rotary Foundation Citation for Meritorious Service, in November 2006; the Rotary International Service Above Self Award, in March 2009; and the Paul Harris Fellowship on three occasions.
It seems hard to believe, but Lew and Jan also found time to raise a family, run a successful business and contribute to their community in many other ways. Lew assisted with fundraising for cerebral palsy in Tasmania and coached primary and secondary school soccer at Norwood Primary and Scotch Oakburn College. He was a board member of Eskleigh Homes and a provider of accommodation for adults with multiple disabilities and served as chairman from 1986 to 1988. He was involved in the Variety Club's TasBash from 1993 to 2000, initially as a participant and later as part of the volunteer staff. And, as well as mentoring young businesspeople, he was a member of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce.
Lew had a caring and considerate nature. Nothing was ever too much trouble for him. During my time as president of the Rotary Club of Central Launceston in 2014-15, Lew was always the first to check on me to make sure that everything was going okay, not just with my Rotary activities but also with my work, life and health in general. He was the first to offer assistance when needed and was always available with advice and suggestions for the club. His corporate knowledge of anything Rotary International was impressive, and his nomination on two occasions to the District Council on Legislation saw him present proposals to the Rotary International Council on Legislation in Chicago, in the US.
Both Lew and Jan thrived on their interaction with the Rotary youth exchange students they hosted, counselled or simply supported through the club. Each and every one of those students would have stories to tell of the wonderful meals they enjoyed, the adventures they had and the fond memories they made when staying with Lew and Jan, especially when they visited their beachside holiday home at The Gardens on the east coast of Tasmania. A magical place at the end of the highway, the shack they purchased in 1975 holds many special memories for their family, their extended family and their friends. In fact, when I caught up with one of our youth exchange students from Sweden recently, shortly after hearing of Lew's passing, the first thing she mentioned was how much she had loved spending time with Lew and Jan at The Gardens.
In a sign of our strong Rotary family, Lew's son David is the current president of the Rotary Club of Central Launceston. I send my thoughts and thanks to him, his brother Ivan and their families for sharing their father with us. It was a pleasure to have known such a wonderful man. Lewis Pretorius—a life well lived. Rest in peace, Lew.