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Respect for Anzacs unites community and visitors

Motorists passing through Heathcote stopped to mark Anzac Day at the RSL cenotaph.

ZACH HUBBER April 30, 2014 3:10am

District students lay wreaths on Friday. Pictured are (above left) Holy Rosary Primary School students Roxanne and Alexis Jorgensen-Neave; (centre) Heathcote Primary School students Thomas Austin and Hayley Cox and Jackson Marcon and Tia Tobin of Holy Rosary Primary School. Photo: Zach Hubber


Tourists driving both directions of the Northern Hwy were seen pulling over to take part in the Anzac Day service at the Heathcote RSL cenotaph on Friday.

Before the outdoor ceremony, at least 300 people packed into the Heathcote RSL hall to pay their respects during a commemoration ceremony.

RSL president Tony Illarietti welcomed guests to the 10am service, with prayers delivered by Reverend Ian Davey and pastor Timothy Happs.

Students from Heathcote, Holy Rosary and Axedale primary schools delivered speeches reflecting on the Anzac spirit.

Captain Robert O’Donnell from Puckapunyal’s School of Artillery was the guest speaker.

Capt. O’Donnell, who served in Afghanistan during 2012-13, spoke about what it meant to be Australian and how the nation’s character was forged in blood during the battles of World War I.

Outside at the cenotaph, soldiers from Puckapunyal army base formed a catafalque party as members of the community laid wreaths in memory of those who served in war.

Following the Australian and New Zealand national anthemsled by the Heartbeat Singersand the playing of The Last Post, the crowd turned its attention to the highway to watch the march.

It was the second service of the day for some residents who had braved the cold for the dawn service.

Mr Illarietti said dawn service numbers were far greater than in previous years, estimating at least 250 people were in attendance.

‘‘I think the word’s getting around town that the RSL does the service for Anzac Day and there’s also more community feeling around at the moment,’’ he said.

The Union Hotel’s gunfire breakfast was again well-attended by RSL members and former servicemen and women wearing their medals.

After the RSL service the hotel was the place to be as a two-up ring was arranged in the car park.

‘‘Hopefully the two-up will be an Anzac tradition for a long time to come,’’ Mr Illarietti said.

‘‘There were a lot of first-timers there who loved it.’’

Mr Illarietti took the reins as ringkeeper and punters tried their luck at making a small profit.

The president said record numbers which attended the day should continue at next year’s 100th anniversary services.

Despite the Maori dancers not appearing this year, Mr Illarietti said they would attend in 2015.

Zach Hubber

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