Saturday, August 17, 2013

Local legend farewelled

Lewis Arthur Rice
September 24, 1917 - July 5, 2013

BORN at New Norfolk during World War I, Lewis Rice was the eldest son of Arthur and Olive Rice (nee Triffett). Known to many as "Lew", he grew up in New Norfolk and attended the State School before winning a scholarship to attend the Hobart Junior Technical School in 1932-33.

His first job was delivering bread - driving a horse and cart - for Excell's Bakery in Burnett St. He then moved on to making the bread and remained a baker until 1959. During the war years, because he was in a reserved occupation, he became part of the Home Guard. At the end of the war he held the rank of sergeant.

After leaving the bakery he went to work in Lachlan Park Hospital (later known as Royal Derwent Hospital) and stayed there until his retirement. He trained as a registered psychiatric nurse and served for a time as charge nurse of the infamous C Ward which housed the criminally insane until this function was transferred to the Risdon Jail. He later had charge of Ward 4 in the newer part of the hospital, looking after those afflicted by drugs and alcohol.

Lew met his wife Lena while she was working at the hospital and they married in 1938. They were living in Blair St when their first child, Robert, was born. Around this time the couple started their own business, which Lena ran while Lew continued on working. It was a mixed business on the site of Clark's Butchery, selling ice creams, lollies, cordials, afternoon and morning teas and fruit and vegetables. Daughter Janice was born six years after Bob, and the growing family moved from Trevor Tce to live above the shop in High St.

Eventually the business moved to Charles St, just along from the back of the Plaza Cinema. Many movie-goers of the time would remember going out the side door of the theatre to visit Rice's shop at intermission.
By now the family was living across the road from the Charles St shop, renting from the Sherrins. Younger son Ian was born around this time. Lew also worked for Les Bromfield as a bookies clerk and a apart from providing for his family, he was kept busy by his love of music.

He took a great interest in music and as a young man learned to play the saxophone. He went on to play for 70 years. He accompanied many of the town's well-know musicians, including Jock Murrison, Vera Maxfield, Max Whittiker and Stella O'Connor. He played in the XL Orchestra and made a record with them, but there were other early bands inccluding his own Lew Rice Trio.

He played at dances and cabarets, many of them in the Oddfellows Hall. In 1947 he won the open orchestral instrument solo award at the New Norfolk Eisteddfod, which eventually grew into the Hobart Eisteddfod. He was conductor and bandmaster of the New Norfolk Civic Band, a 1950s precursor of the Derwent Valley Concert Band that played at all the town's major events such as Anzac Day. Lew continued to play right up until last year, performing for "the old people" as he called playing at Corumbene and other nursing homes.

Lew loved golf and played every Wednesday and would stay on and play cards afterwards. Many of his friends and his five younger brothers passed on, but Lew always seem to have new people to play with. He also enjoyed his fishing trips, often to Lake St Clair.

Widowed in 1987, Lew dearly loved his grandchildren and great- grandchildren and took a great interest in all they did and was equally proud of their musical and sporting achievements. Living to almost 96 years of age, Lew retained a great knowledge of the town. He was an icon and knew so much and was respected by so many.

Lew's largely-attended funeral service was conducted by celebrant Celia Hooker who described him as a wise man with integrity. "He shared special moments with people that were precious. How many young married people danced their first waltz to his music?" Mrs Hooker said. "He will be missed by so many, and our town was rich for having him in it," she said.

Lew Rice is survived by his children Bob, Jan and Ian; grandchildren Stewart, Anita, Adam, Kirsty, Christopher, Erica, Mikeal and Cameron; and great-grandchildren Mitchell, Nathan, Ewan, Gabriel, Lelan and Zeke.

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