Communities mourn loss of two leaders

THE Riverina is a poorer place with the recent deaths of Coolamon shire stalwart Henry Aitken OAM and former New Zealand rugby league international Henry Maxwell.

The Aitken family from Beckom have had a long history of service in local government beginning with Mr Aitken’s father in 1926.

In 1959 Mr Aitken took off from where his father left off, becoming one of the longest-serving shire presidents of Coolamon Shire, eventually stepping down in 1991.

“He saw local government and councils as a way of improving people’s lives,” council’s general manager Terrey Kiss said.

During his time on the Coolamon council, Mr Aitken was elected delegate to the Northern Riverina County Council.

Mr Kiss said it was the input Mr Aitken had which ensured adequate infrastructure for roads, water and electricity was put in place.

“The influence on so many staff and councillors has enabled so many more to come through to make their own contribution,” he said.

“Henry worked with people and set the basis for good local government,” Mr Kiss said.

Mr Aitken died on August 20, aged 85. His funeral will be held today at the Uniting Church in Ardlethan at 2pm.

Originally from New Zealand, Henry Maxwell settled in Batlow to coach the rugby league team.

Before arriving in Australia, Mr Maxwell played for New Zealand’s World Cup team in 1957 and 1960; he also captained a Maori team that toured Australia in 1956.

He was once as rated one of the best forward props in international rugby league.

Former Wagga Kangaroos player Dave Mulrooney remembers the big Kiwi player who at 33 was “20 stone”.

“He was very daunting to pack down against,” Mr Mulrooney said.

He said that during training he could hold up the Batlow’s entire forward pack and push them backwards.

When not playing football, Mr Maxwell could be found working in an orchard, hunting, camping or spending time with his family.

Mr Mulrooney said Mr Maxwell would be sadly missed.

Mr Maxwell died on Friday August 23, aged 81 and his funeral will be held on Wednesday at 2.30pm at the Brunskill Road Creamtorium Chapel.

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