AUSTRALIAN music legend and Vietnam veteran Normie Rowe is set to ‘shake up’ the fund-raising effort for the Seville Memorial War project.
Along with fellow ‘60s icon Marcie Jones, Rowe will headline the concert which will take place on Saturday, 17 September, at the Discovery Church in Mount Evelyn.
The memorial has been a major project for the Seville Township Group and has received great support from surrounding RSL sub-branches, including Mount Evelyn and Lilydale.
Rowe told the ‘Mail’ he wanted to do everything possible to help support the memorial.
He said smaller memorials had special meaning for him, which started after he visited a site in the small Victorian town of Tongala in the Goulburn Valley.
“I was there with a friend, whom I’d met while on tour and under fire in Vietnam,” Rowe said.
“I was laying a wreath for a soldier who was killed on my tour of duty; he was from Collie in Western Australia.
“Some time after, I happened to be in Collie and dropped in to see the soldier’s mother.
“I told her about his little place called Tongala, which was honouring her son.”
Rowe said the soldier’s mother was completely unaware of the memorial and she became emotional.
“It was one of the most touching moments I’ve ever experienced,” he said.
“And that’s why I continue to encourage the smaller memorials, because they mean so much to so many people.”
Rowe first rose to prominence in the 1960s as a singer and was once widely deemed Australia’s most popular male star.
However, he was conscripted in 1967.
He served his tour of duty in Vietnam with distinction, though it curtailed his career and changed his life forever.
“I didn’t ask for it, but I knew it was something that was going to change me and I didn’t walk away from that,” he said.
“I (now) speak on behalf of those veterans, when … the mic is in my hand (and) I have the opportunity to have the floor.”
Rowe still enjoys a healthy career in entertainment, but devotes much of his time to staying in contact with other veterans and supporting initiatives such as the Seville memorial.
Most recently, he performed in Sydney for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, during which he said many Vietnam-era songs resonated profoundly with the audience.
Rowe expected local crowds would enjoy a similar performance.
Once completed, the Seville War Memorial will be a glass monument which stands more than three metres high.
The memorial will not only carry the names of those from Seville who died while on active service but will have images, letters, poems and stories of those from Seville who served their nation, including the Yarra Valley’s only Victoria Cross recipient, George Ingram VC, MM.
Chair of the Seville War Memorial, Anthony McAleer, said the memorial would be a fitting tribute.
“This will be a war memorial for the 21st century,” he said.
“It will have much more historical detail on it than those built 100 years ago and much of that information will be emotive.
“At the same time this memorial will stand as a work of art and as an icon for Seville.”
President of the Seville Township Group, Sue McMurdie, said the memorial was just what the community needed.
“We’ve been knocked by the closure of IGA, the Bendigo Bank branch and Stockfeed,” she said.
“Building something that reflects on our heritage and gives us a place to come together as a community on days of nation significance should give us all a lift.”