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Many surf lifesavers on the Far South Coast have remembered and acknowledged the impact of Batemans Bay SLSC Life Member, Tony Vella, who unfortunately passed away on Saturday 2 July, aged 64.

Tony was an integral part of the Surf Life Saving movement in the state’s south, acting in almost every role at club level aside from President during his many years of service.

He was remembered at a moving service on Thursday 14 July as a devoted lifesaver, trainer, examiner and educator, but ultimately, as a humble man who got the job done.

“He was a big man with a bigger heart,” Far South Coast Branch President, Tony Rettke said.

“He never showed up for any awards, so he was always about not having a fuss made.

“He made sure he kept out of the limelight; he just wasn’t one for accolades.

“He just got the job done.”

“I joke about Tony not turning up to receive his accolades, but we all know this was true,” Batemans Bay SLSC President, Tracy Innes also recalled.

“He regularly won Patrol Person of the Year, Lifesaver of the Year, Club Person of the Year, and was awarded his 20-year National Service Patrol Medal in 2018.

“He received his 10-year Patrol Operations Service Medal, was named a Life Member of Batemans Bay SLSC, and won Branch Trainer of the Year on numerous occasions – all with the typical no show attached to the award ceremony.”

Tony was an active member of Batemans Bay SLSC for nearly three decades and was a part of many major rescues in the area during that time.

In his time, Tony achieved a Meritorious Award for his part in the rescue of three Thai nationals caught in a dangerous rip at Mackenzies Beach in Batemans Bay in the spring of 2008.

He was also among a group of lifesavers from Batemans Bay SLSC and Broulee Surfers SLSC to be nominated for the Surf Life Saving NSW Rescue of the Year award for their role in the rescue of a man when his helicopter crashed into the sea at Lilli Pilli in April 2012.

Perhaps his greatest achievement, though, was the development of the next generation of lifesavers each and every year.

“The kids absolutely loved him,” Tony Rettke continued.

“His nickname was ‘Grumpy’ but he had a great sense of humour.”

Astonishingly, Tony was the trainer or assessor in 1488 courses over his time. Who knows how many lives he helped save by creating those lifesavers.

As is often the case when someone truly touches your heart, it’s the little things that will be missed the most.

“Our time together was obviously too short and for Neil and I, our Christmas Day patrols will never be the same,” Tracy said.

“We jealously guarded our Christmas Day patrol with Tony and it was a highlight of the year.

“The three of us would sit on the beach and reflect on the year.

“It was a smooth easy friendship that will never end no matter where he is,” she said.

Friday 15 July 2022