COCKBURN mayor Logan Howlett says in some ways he’s glad his old friend Ray Lees wasn’t around to see the end of the council he’d led for four years.
Mr Lees, mayor from 1993-1997, died last week aged 85 and his funeral service this week brought together a who’s who of Cockburn dignitaries and Labor tribes. Mr Howlett said his predecessor had been passionate about Cockburn and would have been “absolutely heartbroken” about it being merged with Kwinana into the new City of Jervoise Bay.
“He was a stalwart of the Cockburn community, and was well-known and respected,” Mr Howlett said.
The pair was on the council together during the turbulent 1990s and Mr Lees helped on three of Mr Howlett’s election campaigns.
He was known as a dedicated campaigner, taking on key behind-the-scenes roles in the elections of a raft of Labor politicians at state and federal levels, including both Kim Beazleys, Carmen Lawrence, Don Taylor and Melissa Parke.
Ms Parke paid tribute to Mr Lees in federal parliament this week: “He was a man of great integrity, decency, energy and community spirit who played a significant role in shaping the City of Cockburn, the largest local government in my electorate, and who throughout his life dedicated considerable energy to public service and the interests of working men and women,” she told MPs.
Mr Lees was voted onto Cockburn council in 1972, a year after its elevation from a shire to a town. He was unopposed as south ward councillor for all his 30 years in the position.
Born at Hillcrest Hospital in North Fremantle on December 11, 1928 he went to school at Pickering Brook (staying with friends because of concerns Fremantle would be bombed), then Beaconsfield primary. He left school at 14 and delivered ice on carts. That same year, 1943, he falsified his age to work on a ship supplying Allied troops and stayed at sea till the end of the war.
He met future wife Rose Santich at the Perth Royal Show and worked as a truck driver while they built a home in Hamilton Hill. It took several years to build as the block was full of limestone and the pair had to save money to buy gelignite at regular intervals.
In 1951 Mr Lees joined the Waterside Workers Federation and became a wharfie till his retirement in 1992. He helped organise the famous Lumpers Picnics at Perth zoo.
Mr Lees and Rose bought a block of land in Hope Valley which they worked on as market gardeners, and the former mayor was still out there on his tractor earlier this year.
by STEVE GRANT