Southern Peninsula News 12 October 2021

Page 14


Leslie John (Les) Martyn MBE OSJ – family, sport and business OBITUARY

Leslie John Martyn 26 January 1932 – 31 August 2021 By Peter McCullough Well known sporting identity and businessman Les Martyn died at Cabrini Hospital on 31 August after a long illness. He was a much-loved husband of Denise (deceased) and father/fatherin-law of Stuart & Carolyn, Paul & Angela, and Graeme & Angela. Les was a grandfather of Emily, Catherine, Georgina, Matthew, Jack and Grace. Because of existing restrictions, attendance at the funeral service, held on 9 September, was limited to family members. The eulogy was given by Les’ sons Stuart, Paul and Graeme and this obituary is based on their comments. *** Les Martyn was the fifth of nine children born to Charlie and Clara Martyn and was raised in a rented, single-fronted house in Kensington. It was a time of economic and social hardship and from the age of eight Les would sell papers in both the morning and evening to supplement the family income. While times may have been tough, the family shared a loving home that provided a safe, humour-rich and caring environment. Lifelong friendships were formed with many of the lads of the local area, a tribute to Les’ interest in people and love of storytelling. He excelled at school and on the sporting field. Les was dux of his final year at primary school, winning a scholarship to Christian Brothers’ College, North Melbourne, where he again excelled. Although not the most talented footballer, Les captained the senior team at CBC and then the local YCW to several premierships. While some of his teammates, including his older brother Bryan, went on to play VFL with North Melbourne, Les was the natural leader and mentor of the teams. (In fact Bryan won the club best-andfairest award with North Melbourne in 1957.) During these formative years Les developed a number of qualities that he would display for the rest of his life: respect for others, fairness and

patience. He well understood the importance of family and the need to help others. He was a staunch advocate of thorough preparation – no matter the task – and he knew that hard work would be rewarded. When he was 16 Les commenced work as a clerk with the Commonwealth Bank and while with that organization he completed a degree in accounting. In 1956 he met, and subsequently courted, Denise Mullins who was the sister of his workmate, Tom.

The romance between Les and Denise culminated in their marriage at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in February, 1960. Meanwhile, Les had left the bank and embarked on what proved to be a short but very successful career with Cool Drive Consolidated Industries – an auto accessory manufacturer. This enabled him to build the ‘dream’ family home at Vine Street, Heidelberg. By 1966 the family had grown to five with the addition of Stuart, Paul and Graeme. Denise’s mother was also

accommodated and next door a new home was purchased for Les’ parents, Charlie and Clara. Les appreciated the importance of family and was always considerate of their needs. In 1956, when Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games, Les attended as an official. Little did he know that he would attend so many more! Les had an older brother who had an interest in wrestling and, during his junior football years, Les would accompany him to the gym to lift some weights. This aroused his interest in weightlifting and Les won several titles at state level before moving on to coaching. During the summer of 1970 several of Australia’s best weightlifters had been selected to compete at an international event but there were insufficient funds available to cover their costs. Les decided to hold a fundraiser in the backyard at Vine Street and, although several hundred attended, a little more money was needed. Les, always able to think on his feet, came up with the solution: raffle off the athletes! Moments later a ‘roulette wheel’ was established. This saw the slightly inebriated weightlifters, some of whom were of ample proportions, hung upside down from the Hills rotary clothes line and, as it was spun around, the audience ‘bet’ on the outcome. While the Hills hoist was never quite the same, the event was a huge success and sufficient money was raised. Les was General Manager of Cool Drive Consolidated Industries when it was bought out by Repco. The time had come to move in a new direction. In 1971 he bought the Royal Hotel in Hastings, changed its name to the Westernport, and spent 12 months undertaking a wholesale revamp. Improvements included a 250 seat restaurant (named ‘Martys’) with an appropriate kitchen, plus a drivethrough bottle department. Over the next few years Les expanded further in this field, first by acquiring the Chelsea Hotel and then the Dromana Hotel; both underwent renovations, particularly the Chelsea Hotel, and suitable restaurants were installed (again named ‘Martys’). Les still had an unfulfilled ambition: to establish an upmarket seafood restaurant in Hastings. This led to his involvement in the

Hastings Marina which was still in the course of construction. A lasting contribution to the Hastings community was Les’ participation in the development of the Hastings Leisure Centre (now rebadged as the Community Hub). Les was President of the committee and considered that the Leisure Centre would help to cater for the sporting needs of those in the community who were sometimes overlooked: children, women and senior citizens. During the late 1980’s the economy became rather unstable and ‘the recession we had to have’ generated an air of uncertainty. This prompted Les to scale down his assets, starting with the Dromana Hotel in 1990 and concluding with the sale of the Westernport Hotel in 1995. For around 20 years Les and Denise had lived in the ‘Tower House’, a Frankston landmark with Edna Walling-inspired gardens. This was sold and the couple moved to Safety Beach where Les ran the golf pro shop at the Country Club as well as a gym in the city. Denise passed away in 2009 and in 2014 Les moved to a town house in Frankston. Five years later he moved to an Aged Care facility in Mornington. Alongside Les’ business success as a hotelier was his huge involvement in sports administration. From his experience coaching weightlifters, Les moved on to managing them, starting with the 1966 British Empire Games team. As head of the Australian Weightlifting Federation (1971-1983) he presided over a period that has been described as ‘the golden years’ of the sport. Les was an active participant and advocate for sport which saw him take on leadership roles in various bodies and associations such as the Confederation of Australian Sport and the Australian Commonwealth Games Association of which he was the President from 1979 to 1987. The latter involved being host-nation President for the 1982 Brisbane Games where he achieved considerable success in convincing all African nations which were part of the Commonwealth to attend. As Les’ involvement in international sports administration grew, he and

Left: Les Martyn (left) with his parents and six of his siblings Below: Les Martyn competing at a state championship


Southern Peninsula News

13 October 2021

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