IT WAS an innate sense of justice that would not allow Erwin Richter to sit on the sidelines and watch individuals or his city suffer when he could do something to help.
“My long-held philosophy has been that if it is at all possible to make a difference for the better of just one person any effort on my part would be justified,” Mr Richter told The Daily Advertiser in 2010 after being told he had been made a Member of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his contribution to the community.
Wagga on Monday lost a strong voice for those struggling to be heard, including battlers struggling to pay for expensive fuel, refugees and hardworking truckies, with the death of Mr Richter at home at the age of 88.
Mr Richter was the public face of Wagga’s fight against high fuel price for many years, being instrumental in forcing the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission to hold and inquiry in the city in 2007.
A transport operator for 50 years, Mr Richter helped found the Australian Truck Drivers’ Memorial at Tarcutta.
He was a passionate advocate for refugees, having witnessed as far back as 1948 at the Bonegilla migrant centre what displaced peoples endured.
“It was in his heart,” said one of Mr Richter’s sons, Geoff.
“He was always willing to help others, it didn’t matter who they were or where they came from he just wanted to help as much as he could.
“He fought the good fight.”
Mr Richter married Elma Franke in Albury on November 1, 1952, and the couple marked their 64th wedding anniversary just three weeks ago.
They raised four children – David, Marilyn, Geoff and Lorraine – and enjoyed 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Erwin Richter was a devoted member of the Lutheran Church – he helped establish the Lutheran Primary School in Wagga – and his Christian faith was a foundation of his good works, Geoff Richter said.
Mr Richter was instrumental in the Wagga Interchurch Council which promoted co-operation between Christian churches.
Good friend Max Chamberlain said Mr Richter was the most community-spirited man he had ever met.
“He was there for the whole community,” Mr Chamberlain said.
Mr Chamberlain said Mr Richter would not claim credit for much of the work done for refugees from Africa, but he was the “go to man”.
He said members of the African community would sing at Mr Richter’s funeral next week.
“That is testament to the charity of the man,” he said.
Mr Richter received many awards over his life, including a Rotary Peace Day Community Service Award, the Centenary of Federation Medal and a nomination for Australian of the Year in 2009.
In 2014, the Wafrica community recognised Mr Richter for his individual contribution to the African community in Wagga.
A Service of Thanksgiving for Mr Richter will be held in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Athol Street, on Tuesday at 11am.