Posted by John Granger

The passing of Lawrence Atley OAM was a sad milestone for the Rotary Club of Footscray. Lawrence was a dedicated and passionate Rotarian who enjoyed and valued his time in Rotary and the friends he made there. 

The Rotary Club of Footscray spans 85 years. In that time, there have been events and achievements that have allowed the Club to contribute to the local, wider and international communities. It has always been a forum for Rotarians of vision, courage and compassion. And, in those eight and a half decades, no-one embraced Rotary’s ‘Service Above Self’ ethic more than Lawrence Atley. Last week Lawrence passed away and we are mourning our loss. 

In remembering Lawrence, I have chosen not to cite his many wonderful achievements in Rotary and beyond – this will be done in ceremony and writings by others.  Rather, I would like to touch on my memories, over a 50 year period, of someone who was inspiring, courageous, creative, innovative and very funny. 

Son, husband, father, architect, raconteur, Rotarian and friend: Lawrence was someone who seemed to be ‘across everything’ and, if you were co-partnering a project, it was ‘Hang on, this will be quite a ride’. His drive and his enthusiasm were infectious. 

I remember ‘after work’ meetings at Lawrence’s office in the 1980s – ‘Rotary Business’ he called them. Much was achieved at those meetings, but ‘fellowship’ ultimately took centre stage. Doug Mills, Frank Brown, Wally Beevers, Jimmy Hunt, Michael Dempsey, Don Henderson and Norm Gillespie were regulars and, as a newish member in my early 30s it was an honour to be in the room – even though my contributions were scant. A number of these meetings were central to the District Governorships of both Doug Mills and Lawrence.  

Lawrence was playful and insightful. His barbs were telling and his banter with Michael Dempsey was legendary.  

His infrequent efforts at golf were mercifully ‘infrequent’, but hilarious. Actually, he and golf never ‘bonded’, but it was an absolute joy to witness. 

‘Lawrence and Margaret’, ‘Margaret and Lawrence’ … I don’t have the words. Many have tried following his death, but no-one will adequately portray their partnership – brilliant, humble and everlasting. 

Andrea, Lisa. Celia and Jack – memories will flood back. What a dad. 

I’ll miss telling him that the Bulldogs are finished and receiving his standard reply of ‘Sack the Coach’. 

For us … the members of the Rotary Club of Footscray … I know he’d be dismissive of anything