Since their arrival in Griffith 55 years ago, both Rick and Thel Schwarzer have played an active part in the community. Rick strongly believed that you cannot live in a society without contributing to its well-being. In his own words, ‘Community service is the fare we pay for the ride we have through life.’
During his time in Griffith, Rick was dedicated to the education of generations of local children. In the early days of his career, teaching at Weethalle, Rick taught a class of 54 children. Moving to Griffith Public School in 1962, Rick continued his dedication to education as Deputy Principal until his appointment as Principal at Griffith East Public School in 1981. From here he moved to Griffith North Public School in 1987, where he served as Principal until his retirement in 1997.
During his time at Griffith Public School Rick instigated an affiliation with the Royal Far West Children’s Health Scheme, to enable country children to receive medical and educational support in Sydney. He attended conferences, co-ordinated children’s visits and transport to Sydney. Royal Far West services for country children have since expanded and continue to play an important role today.
In 1978, Rick joined the Rotary Club of Griffith, representing education in the community. He served as Rotary President, chaired District Conferences, acted as club bulletin editor for many years, and was a member of the Australian Rotary Health Research Fund committee and the Rotary Literacy Committee. Rick was instrumental in the construction of the Don MacKay Memorial in Griffith in recognition of and respect for his friend Don. He immensely enjoyed the friendship of his fellow Rotarians and greatly valued the work they do within the community. Rick was honoured in 2004 to be awarded the prestigious Paul Harris Fellow in recognition of his service to the community.
Rick enjoyed hosting the radio broadcast of the annual ANZAC day commemoration service in Griffith, completed National Service training and spent two years in the Citizen Military Forces. For 15 years Rick was also a member of the Hyandra Retirement Village Board of management. In more recent times Rick has been an active member of the Prostate Cancer support group, where he encourages others to continue their fight against the disease and passionately urges all men to have regular medical checks.
Since their arrival in Griffith, Rick and Thel have been active members of the Methodist, now Uniting Church. Rick served on the church council and as treasurer for many years, studied lay preaching through the Uniting Church’s distance education facility and enjoyed taking services in Griffith, Hillston, Yenda and Goolgowi.
Rick’s love of music has been an enduring theme throughout his life. In the early days in Griffith he joined the local Review Company, performing in many lead roles in local musicals. Rick later joined the Griffith Chorale and Sing Australia Choir, where he continued to entertain us with his rich voice.
The devastating diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer in 2003 was one that Rick was determined to fight – a fight that lasted 14 long years. His incredible will to live, strength of mind and sheer determination to keep going was evident until the end.
A special and remarkable man like Rick has left an impact on so many. Gone but never forgotten; he will always be in our hearts.
‘If music is the source of life, let us keep singing.’ Louis Armstrong
The Area News would also like to acknowledge the recent efforts of Rick and Thel in lobbying of St Vincent’s Hospital, which led to them now accepting all patients from all private health funds.