Obituary: Family man had real passion for Y’s clubs

Bendigo’s Arthur Cowling.

Bendigo’s Arthur Cowling.

ARTHUR Cowling was born on July 20, 1919, at Learmonth House in Myers Street, Bendigo, the only child of Algar and Minnie Cowling.

He attended Quarry Hill State School and then Bendigo High School.

Arthur was particularly strong in maths, which was of immense value throughout his life. Football and tennis were his main sporting interests. He played the piano and had a great love of music.

After leaving school, Arthur worked at W. Cowling Hay and Produce and Farm Machinery Agency in Bendigo. Over the next five years he studied accountancy by correspondence.

After joining the 38th Infantry Battalion in 1939, Arthur was promoted to Sergeant, transferring to the Army Intelligence Force in 1942, and as a lieutenant he transferred to the12/50th Infantry Battalion in 1943. 

He qualified in LHQ military intelligence at Southport and the NT Force Officers Tactical Wing training, as well as military intelligence air photo interpretation and analysis.

Arthur was seconded as an intelligence officer to the Norforce and transferred to the Australian Intelligence Corps. He was promoted to captain in 1945.

During his army service, Arthur was stationed at quite a few locations across Australia.

In Darwin he was responsible for keeping records on enemy movement and maintaining the map room. He presented a daily review of operations to the general staff at the headquarters.

Arthur discharged from the army, transferring to officers reserve in November 1945.

At the end of the war, Arthur was requested to return to support the family business, specialising in farm machinery sales as before. 

Soon after he transferred to the W. Cowling Ford dealership, he became sales manager for the new car division, continuing until 1969, when the business closed.

In 1946, Arthur married Norma Hocking at the Forest Street Methodist Church. 

They were both active in the church; Norma sang in the choir and Arthur taught at Sunday school. 

Arthur remained dedicated to his church taking on many voluntary roles. From 1947 to 1957, Arthur and Norma had four children: Lynette, Ian, Heather and Annie.

After a long illness, Norma passed away in 1978. 

In 1980 Arthur married Clarice Bolton, the widow of Fred Bolton, a long-time family friend. 

Arthur cared dearly for all his extended family, including great-grandchildren. He always embraced family occasions with energy and good spirits.

He retired in 1982. 

Arthur joined the Bendigo Y’s Men’s Club in 1946. This would play the most important and significant role in his life. The Y Service Club movement was established in 1922 as a support service organisation to the YMCA worldwide.

The Y’s Men’s and Y’s Menette’s Clubs were an incredible passion in Arthur’s family life. 

He attended international conventions with Norma and as his involvement as a leader increased he regularly travelled overseas, visiting more than 30 countries, and in later times with Clarice.

As a leader, Arthur progressed through increasing positions of responsibility within the Y’s Men’s Movement.

He was assistant treasurer to the international treasurer over a 20-year period, being responsible for the Australia and New Zealand Region during its development and at its peak.

Arthur was appointed host committee chairman for the highly successful Y’s Men’s international convention held at the Melbourne Hilton in 1978. He demonstrated his organisational ability and how to attain the best effort from his committee. 

After four years of intensive planning, the convention attracted about 1000 participants from all over the world and is still talked about today as one of the best international conventions ever. It was there that Arthur received the Harry M. Ballantyne Award, the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a Y’s Man.

It is bestowed upon “A Y’s Man who over a long period has rendered service of special value and helpfulness to the Y’s Men’s Movement”.

Arthur moved progressively through the higher offices of the Y movement, including three years as a member of the international council, and was ultimately elected to the position of international president. With his experience and enthusiasm, he carried out this position with the attention and dignity it deserved. 

Arthur was passionate about his local Bendigo YMCA. He became a board member in 1950 and served for many years, including the presidency. 

As an executive member, he focused on fundraising and attracted many thousands of dollars from philanthropic trusts to support the growth of the YMCA into the vital part of the City of Greater Bendigo community that it is today.

In the year 1993, Arthur was honoured by the Queen with the Order of Australia Medal for services to the Y’s Men International movement and the YMCA.

Arthur also held executive positions as a member of the Bendigo Probus Club, Order of Australia Club and his church, Wesley.

Until the age of 92, Arthur kept up with modern technology, with computers, e-mail and the internet opening new avenues of communication.

In 2012 life changed dramatically for Arthur and Clarice. Their circumstances were dictated by health issues and reliance on assistance.

Clarice passed away in 2013 and although Arthur struggled, he always maintained his positive outlook. 

After a short stay in hospital, Arthur returned to care and passed away peacefully in his sleep on  July 4, 2014, aged 94.

It can be truly said that Arthur had a zest for life thanks to his commitment to his family, his career, his church, his community, and his clubs…. “a life well lived”.

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