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‘Slug laid to rest ‘Slug laid to rest at sea

FAREWELL: The Coolum boat crew raises its oars to salute Les Wilson’s life.
FAREWELL: The Coolum boat crew raises its oars to salute Les Wilson’s life. Contributed

Boat crew including Les Wilson and, inset, a wreath from Saturday. contributed

ANOTHER important link to Coolum Surf Life Saving Club has been scattered out beyond the break.

And then the ashes of 71-year-old Les "Slug" Wilson - a former active member who more than lived up to the lifesaving motto of vigilance and service - were saluted with a show of oars by a surf boat crewed by life members.

Sweep for the Saturday afternoon ceremony, watched on by family, friends and club supporters, was 50-year Coolum surf club veteran Dave Cush.

On board alongside Dave bending their backs one last time with Les were supporters' club president John Ellingsen, Gary Barben, Ken Cameron and one of Les'prize recruits Phil Adams.

Phil found a whole new way of life and lifelong friends after he was talked into coming up to Coolum from Brisbane as a youngster. He remembers being at a mate's place in Brisbane when their was a fateful knock on the door.

Les was meant to be collecting money for the annual lifesaving house-to-house fundraiser that kept the club financially afloat.

"He mentioned that they were always looking for young blokes to join the club," Phil said.

"So Les, being Les, had his foot in the door in no time."

LIFE member Steve "Poodles" Kemp said Les left the club more than once as life and family changed priorities, but every time he returned full of enthusiasm.

Les was pleased as punch when his daughter Jodi followed in his footsteps after women were allowed to become active members, obtaining her bronze aged 17 and then becoming a patrol captain a year later.

"Dad first came up and started surfing at Noosa with the likes of Bob McTavish and 'Pa' Bendall," Jodi said of her former boilermaker/welder dad.

"He loved the surf boats and encouraged young blokes to get into rowing."

Scattering the ashes for loyal club servants is now a tradition at the Coolum club. Former president, the late Brian "Doggie" Clem had the honour as did life member Alan Casey.

In fact, the boat which headed out to the sea to give Les back to the Coolum surf is dedicated to the memory of Alan.

And anyone who thinks this is just a lot of ancient history should have been at the beach patrol arena as one of the present active members listened to Slug's tribute broadcast over the beach PA system.

"I'm not usually an emotional bloke, but it really got to me," said the patroller.

The often lively adventures of Les, Phil, John, Dave and all the crew have been captured in the surf club's recently published history book Breathing Life Into Coolum Beach.

It's been received as a good read by locals not connected to the club and explores how lifesaving helped shape Coolum. The $35 full colour gloss hardback is available from the surf club reception and would be an excellent Christmas gift for people who want to know how lifesaving and Coolum evolved together.


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