In honour of Gerry Cassin, who died on Sunday, aged 87, we republish an interview he gave to The Geraldton Guardian in March last year.
Gerry Cassin was 26 when he and two mates attended a meeting to establish a local Apex club in 1956.
The men were among 33 founding members of the local branch of the young men’s service club.
“We held our first meeting in the cafe at the bottom of the Esplanade Hostel (near the current visitor centre on Marine Terrace),” he said.
“We moved around to different pubs for meetings, but we ended up at Birdwood House for quite some years.”
Now 86, Mr Cassin said Apex members were involved in the community in practical ways.
“We used to entertain the English Navy frigates when they came into port,” he said.
“Once, they were here for Christmas and we had five fellows at home for Christmas dinner.
“I’ve got ‘sucker’ written across my forehead, so they delegated me to be the Apex representative at the Civilian Widows meetings.
“I used to go along and see what we could do for them.
“We might go and paint a room for them or something like that.
“We’d make it an Apex service job and they were quite grateful to have someone do a job like that for them.”
Another project was undertaken at the Bill Sewell Complex at the corner of Bayly Street and Chapman Road, when it was still Geraldton’s hospital.
“The nurses had a tennis court at the old Bill Sewell Complex and we more or less did it up so it looked respectable,” Mr Cassin said.
“When you do that and see it later, you think ‘we did that and it didn’t cost them anything’.”
He said the biggest service job undertaken during his 14 years with Apex was a former cemetery — now Apex Park — at the corner of Phelps Street and Chapman Road.
“It was a real shocker when it was a cemetery,” he said.
“It was bushes and tombstones and looked shocking.
“We surveyed it so we knew where everybody’s graves were.
“They gave us a block of land we sold for about $4000 and that helped pay for the work to clean it up.
“We did that and it was an asset.
“People drove past and said ‘gee, Apex did that’ and it was good.”
Mr Cassin said being involved in Apex helped him realise he had leadership skills which he could put to use for the rest of his life.
Now retired, he holds six life memberships with different organisations, including Geraldton Men’s Darts Association and the Australian Workers Union.
He was made a life member of Apex when he left the organisation at the age of 40 in 1970.
“I gained a lot of confidence in public speaking,” he said.
“I felt that Apex gave me the urge to do what I could for the community, and that gave me opportunity to be involved in other organisations.”
He said although there had been significant changes since he was an active member, Apex was still relevant to the community.
“When I was there the retiring age out of Apex was 40,” he said.
“It was a young men’s service club. Now it’s 45.
“When we first started there were no women, but now if they didn’t have the women they wouldn’t have Apex.
“It’s a bit of a shame, but some young blokes aren’t as interested in helping people who are less fortunate.
“If you are interested in the community and trying to make it a better place to live and be proud of, you should join and help out.”
* A funeral to celebrate Mr Cassin’s life will be held at 1pm today at the Geraldton Crematorium.