Fitting farewell to ‘mayor'

IT WAS a sad day for the Richmond Valley yesterday as mourners laid to rest the man most synonymous with the village of Bentley, Reg Hartley.

Often referred to as the unofficial mayor of Bentley, the funeral for the former Tomki and Richmond Valley councillor followed Friday's burial of nearby Tabulam's unofficial mayor, Errol O'Driscoll, compounding the region's loss and the sense of an era passing.

Hundreds packed into St Mary's Catholic Church at Casino to farewell Mr Hartley, who was a passionate advocate for civic duty and was instrumental in establishing Bentley's Rural Fire Service brigade as well as initiating the now famous Bentley Art Prize.

Son Peter Hartley spoke fondly of a "very conservative man" who cherished traditional values such as loyalty, honesty and fairness, while at the same time believing passionately in collective action when communities needed to band together.

While his father left school after sixth grade to work on the family farm as there was no transport to high schools in Lismore, he "loved science, history and geography ... and devoted the lion's share of the family resources to the kids", placing a high priority on education so his children could have the opportunities he didn't.

"You did a great job dad, you were an exemplary example," he said.

Younger son James remembered a man with 50 direct living descendants who rode a horse to school and would always welcome newcomers to the district.

"He loved his cricket and tennis and kept newspaper clippings of the odd 100s he scored," he said.

"Our father was an icon in the community; if he saw a need he would see it through; he was a dad's dad."

Rural Fire Service volunteers formed a guard of honour as Mr Hartley's casket was carried from the church.

Northern Rivers Rural Fire Service manager, Superintendent Michael Brett, said the gesture recognised Mr Hartley's years of dedication.

"Reg will be deeply missed, he was an influential member of Bentley brigade and got it going to where it is today - he was a founding father of the service," Mr Brett said. "He was a big influence on the members and that's shown by their interest to be here today."

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