Mildura Weekly : Friday April 10 2015 Vol 9 No 22
NEWS 09 FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2015 MILDURAWEEKLY.COM.AU PETER ‘Bomber’ Tonzing has had an association with bi- cycles for as long as he can remember. He mucked around on bikes as a kid, did bicycle patrols around Melbourne when he joined the Victoria Police, rode a bike 15 kilo- metres to and from work after getting a transfer to Mildura, and he’s a regular starter in long distance char- ity fund-raisers like the Port to Port and Murray to Moyne bike endurance rides. Such is his dedication to the fund-raising cycling classics that ‘Team Harmony,’ a group of his police team-mates, nomi- nated ‘Bomber’ for the Graham Wood- rup Memorial Medal, the prestigious award for exceptional ser- vices to cycling in general, and the Mur- ray to Moyne in particular. ‘Bomber’ was in elite company. The four other nominees, including a high- ly-respected Irymple Rotari- an, were people with extraor- dinary and heart-breaking tales of courage, persever- ance and dedication, and although ‘Bomber’ didn’t get the medal, he was chuffed to have even been nominated. “I wondered why the team wanted to stay around for the after-ride presenta- tions after we traditionally dipped our wheels in the Moyne River at the end of the ride,” he said. “Normally they want to get back on the road as soon as possible – it’s a long drive home.” Another local long-time cycling enthusiast and Mur- ray to Moyne supporter, Irymple Rotarian Garry Coo- per, was also nominated for the medal, which eventually went to Kerang’s Rob Mason, who with a friend started Kerang’s involvement in the fund-raiser 20 years ago. Mr Mason dedicated two decades to organising a local team, starting in 1995, after team member Sonia Elmore (Laursen), 23, was hit by a car and killed a week before the overnight event, and four weeks to the day after her wedding. Loddon Murray Cycling Club has also honoured Mr Mason with ’Sonia’s Award,’ a perpetual award presented to the club person of the year. The Garry Cooper story is another one of courage, de- termination and inspiration. (See story this page.) A Mildura police col- league and long-time friend of ‘Bomber,’ Jim Mason, who started Mildura’s Team Har- mony two decades ago, said all nominees were deserving of the award, and it was peo- ple like ‘Bomber,’ Garry, Rob Mason and company who were the backbone of the an- nual fund-raiser, which this year was expected to raise around $1 million for essen- tial regional Victoria health services. Fast approaching his 73rd birthday (in May), ‘Bomber’ is believed to be the oldest-serving member of Victoria Police. He joined in 1963, and had it not been for a ’sabbatical’ when he left the job to work the family block for a few years af- ter his father fell ill and died, this year would have chalked up 52 years in uniform. “Police life is all I have really ever known growing up,” ‘Bomber’ told the Mil- dura Weekly. “Apart from a few years as an apprentice motor me- chanic with George Bildstien Motors at Merbein after leav- ing school, and my time on the block, I’ve always been a copper.” More than meets the eye... But there’s more to the ‘Bomber’ Tonzing story than meets the eye. When you push a little harder, you find the joys and heartbreaks of a husband and father, a sport- ing career that finally ended at 44, the good, the bad and the ugly of policing and courtroom work, and amaz- ingly, finding time to build two of the best ‘home-made’ paddle boats on the Murray- Darling River system. The ‘Bomber’ nick-name has interesting origins, start- ing in his primary school days. It started off as ‘Tonic,’ stretched to ‘Tonic-bomb’ after the British bomb tests at SA’s Maralinga in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and was shortened to ‘Bomber’ during his early footy days. As you would expect from any good copper (especially in prosecutions), ‘Bomber’ has almost total recall when asked to give a snapshot of his life. He joined ‘The Job’ as a rookie in Melbourne in 1963 (the same year he got married, and turned 21), and after basic training and grad- uation was stationed in Rus- sell Street and then Bruns- wick, mainly on bike patrol, until 1967, when he quit the force and returned home to help his dying father on the family block. “I continued to run it for a while after he died, but I wasn’t cut out to be a block- ie,” ‘Bomber’ said. “I stuck it out until 1979, did another six weeks basic training at the academy before spend- ing 12 months back in Rus- sell Street, then I managed a transfer to Mildura, and I’ve been here ever since.” ‘Bomber’ has spent his entire time with Mildura uniform branch, and in 1991 became the first gazetted policeman appointed to a full-time position as police prosecutor. He now works five days a fortnight, and says that suits him perfectly. “Plenty of time for bike rid- ing, and building boats,” he said. “Bomber’ has ridden over a lot of life’s bumps along the way. He lost a son at 38, went through separa- tion, and a few years ago lost long-time partner Ruth to Motor Neurone Disease. He says it was Ruth who got him through some hard times. They met in 1985 at the Werrimull Pub during his stint with Karween/Kara- winna Football Club. She shared his passion for sport, leisure activities like cycling, the river and boats, and over six years helped him build the 46ft side-wheel paddle- boat ‘Yarrara,’ named af- ter a township in the Millewa, and meaning ‘Tumbling Along.’ “We had a great 10 years travelling up and down the river in our spare time until Ruth got sick,” ‘Bomber’ said. “She was showing symptoms of something serious in 2011, was diagnosed with MND in 2012, and passed away in November that year, at 66.” At that stage the couple were well into building a second paddleboat, much bigger at 60ft long and 25ft wide, double storey, also with side paddle wheels, and given the name ‘Mere- bin,’ original name of the settlement where they called home for many years. “It’s been a long build - more than seven years - but it’s nearly finished,” ‘Bomb- er’ said. “I reckon she’ll be ready to launch at the next high river, and once afloat I can add the finishing touch- es.” ‘Bomber’ says work on the boat keeps him fit and active, he still walks to and from work (from his 7th Street unit), enjoys the oc- casional game of tennis, golf and table tennis, and hasn’t put a date on final retire- ment from the police force. But regardless, he’ll keep riding the Murray to Moyne and Port to Port for as long as he can, continue the an- nual golf and fishing bond- ing trips with a close group of mates to various parts of Australia, and he’ll maintain a close liaison with serving and past members of Mil- dura police. After all, they’ve been part of his extended family for more than half a century. • FOOTNOTE: Even though he carried the nick-name ‘Bomber,’ he doesn’t bar- rack for Essendon. In the AFL it’s Geelong, and up here it’s Merbein, where he played most of his senior and reserves footy. Peter Tonzing has a Victoria Police history going back to the bicycle patrols of 1963. At 72 he’s still in the job as a Leading Senior Constable, he’s still cycling for some great causes, AND building paddleboats... Wheels keep turning for top cop ‘Bomber’ firstname.lastname@example.org By Alan Erskine FRIDAY People “Apart from a few years as an apprentice motor mechanic with George Bildstien Motors at Merbein after leaving school, and my time on the block, I’ve always been a copper.” The Rotary Club of Irymple was honoured to nominate long-time member Garry Cooper for one of the most prestigious awards in distance cycling – the Graham Woodroffe Memorial Medal. He just missed out, but... Garry puts others on track By ALAN ERSKINE UP until four years ago, lifelong Mildura resident and long-time fruit com- pany manager Russell Witcombe hadn’t thought of bike riding as a rec- reational pursuit, or tak- ing part in overnight epic rides. “I had no bike, no gear, no ability, and no idea!” Russell said. But a remarkable bloke called Garry Coo- per changed all that, and Russell, now a determined and dedicated convert to the cycling craze, was pleased and proud to nominate his mentor for the Graham Woodrup Memorial Award at the end of yet another Murray to Moyne 500-kilometre overnight cycling fund- raiser. • Continued Page 12 World’s No.1 Selling Chainsaw brand Legendary performance & power Superior quality & reliability ************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************ WWWWWWWWWooooooorrrrr ChChChChCChC aaaaaaaaaiiiiii LeLeLeLeLeLeLeeegggggggggeeeeeeee pepepepepeeperrrrrrrrfofofofofoofo rrrrrr SuSuSuSuSuSuSuuupppppppppeeeeeeeee &&&&&& rrrrrrrelelelelelelelee iiiiiii Assembled, fuelled & ready to go! *$300 Cash Back on MS 660 as shown valid 1/4/15 to 31/5/15 or while stocks last, no rainchecks. $200 Cash Back on MS 291, MS 311, MS 391 valid 1/4/15 to 31/5/15 or while stocks last, no rainchecks.
Friday April 2 2015 Vol 9 No 21
Friday April 17 2015 Vol 9 No 23