The Shoalhaven has lost one of our most prolific fundraisers, Barry Harper, who passed away on Thursday, July 28 at Clelland Lodge, North Nowra.
Barry lost his left leg in a car accident in 1964 but it didn't stop him raising funds for sporting groups and charities.
His first venture was to start markets at the drive in theatre on Albatross Road. The funds raised went to the Nowra Swimming Club. Swimmers who qualified were able to attend National, State and Country Championships as well as bus trips to carnivals for any club swimmers.
Barry went on to help form the Bomaderry Swimming Club he was instrumental in getting the club house at Bomaderry pool. He was president of the club for a number of years.
While he'd never even played bingo before he became involved in running the game for charity in the early 2000s, in 2011 Barry delivered a $300,000 cheque to the Shoalhaven Linear Accelerator Committee, bringing the total raised by the bingo sessions to more than $1 million for a range of local charities.
In 2011 Barry told the South Coast Register he was very proud of what was achieved through bingo.
The sessions started when the North Nowra Tavern asked Mr Harper as Bomaderry Swimming Club president whether he was interested in running bingo to raise money for the club.
"I had to give it a bit of thought but decided to give it a go," Mr Harper recalled.
"I'd never even been to bingo before and I wasn't too sure about it all, but Johnny George taught me how to call."
In the early days the prizes were $10 meat trays and frozen chickens, and Mr Harper admitted the crowds were fairly small, even when the money raised from the sessions started going to the Shoalhaven Hospital Auxiliary.
When the auxiliary's permit expired, Mr Harper decided to direct funds to Shoalhaven Kids In Need, Noah's Ark and Havenlee School for Special Needs.
In the midst of these changes Mr Harper was approached by the Nowra Golf Club to run bingo, so he moved location to the larger venue. He also made the switch from prizes and vouchers for the winners to cash, and waited anxiously to see how the change would be accepted.
"On the very first day of the first cash bingo session it was blowing a gale with driving rain, and it was a real worry whether we would get anyone there, but to our surprise they came out in droves and we had trouble fitting them in," Mr Harper said.
The crowds continued, and eventually the bingo had to move from the golf club to the Bomaderry RSL Club where there was more room.
"It's all high-tech now, it's nothing like pulling a ball out of a barrel," Mr Harper said.
"It's pretty full-on when you're calling now."
He added facilities at the club were "fantastic" and had earned praise from all involved, including a woman who travelled by train from Sydney each Saturday to play. She was among about 300 people who played bingo in the Thursday and Saturday sessions each week, competing for prizes of up to $1000 in cash, although that number grew dramatically during the four big events staged each year.
The Linear Accelerator Committee's permit for bingo expired in August 2012, and Mr Harper was confident another $100,000 would be raised before then to help provide better facilities in the cancer care centre, particularly more beds for people staying overnight while receiving treatment.
Barry was given many citizens awards for his fundraising efforts along with Rotaries Paul Harris award for Outstanding Contributions to his community, Bomaderry Rotary was one or the service clubs who were recipients of the Charity Bingo, Rotarians volunteered their time to help run the bingo.
Barry was the person behind the formation of the Bomaderry RSL Charity Bingo Trust which has helped many of the districts charities, sporting groups and service clubs.