Bill Tresise started Lions Club
BACK in 1947 Lismore builder Bill Tresise could not have foreseen that a chance encounter would lead him to form an organisation that now raises more than $25 million a year for community work and has 30,000 members Australia-wide.
This week the son of that builder toured Lismore to launch a new book that traces the humble beginnings in the town of one of Australia's largest and much-respected community groups, Lions Club Australia.
Lion Bill, as Bill Tresise would become known, founded Lionism in Australia through passion and determination, said his son Max Tresise.
The first Lions Club in Australia was started by Bill in Lismore in 1947. Now there are 1300 clubs Australia-wide and 201 countries with Lions Club chapters.
"He had returned from service in New Guinea after being medically discharged and he was elected as national president of Apex," Max said.
About to turn 40, the age limit of Apex membership, Bill tried in vain to have the age limit extended so his and other older Apex members' community work could continue.
"He was programmed to serve the community. He was passionate about it," Max said.
"He came from a very disciplined family and he passed that discipline on to others."
Despite the National Convention of Apex in Launceston in 1946 refusing him permission to launch a senior Apex movement, Bill travelled overseas representing Apex and a chance meeting with a senior US Lion member planted the seed in his mind for Australia to become the 18th country to join the International Lions Club fraternity.
Trying to get support for his plan was hard work in the early days, Max said.
"But he believed the opportunity was there. Lismore was his spiritual home and he felt he just had to serve his community."
In 1947 Bill called a meeting with business and professional men in Lismore to get the first club started and later opened the first Melbourne club, after which the Lions in Australia grew rapidly.
Lion Bill would be "as happy as a pig in mud" to know the story of Lions Australia had been told by his son and that the passion for the club continued to this day, Max said.
"Lions is about passion in people," he said.
"Dad planted the seed and others have come after him with the same passion.
"My father taught me to be altruistic and to contribute to those around you.
"I've been a Lion for over 30 years now myself and there's enormous satisfaction in serving others."
A LION'S TALE
Max Tresise's book Lion Bill, His Journey To Establish Lions In Australia, can be purchased by emailing Mr Tresise on firstname.lastname@example.org.