Charlie Miller memorial garden opened at Moorak

REMEMBERING CHARLIE: Moorak Primary School captains Ben Harfull and Ethan Brook in the Charlie Miller Memorial Garden watched on by Heather Cram representing Gambier Earth Movers who donated a large rock for the garden, Christy Wallace who painted the sign, Principal Peter Mitchinson, Penne Paltridge the teacher who began the project, and Mount Gambier RSL President Bob Sandow seated who officially opened the garden.

Kathy Gandolfi

WORLD War Two spitfire pilot and Mount Gambier character, the late Charlie Miller OAM, was memoralised this week with the opening of a garden at Moorak Primary School.

A favourite speaker at the school around Anzac Day, Charlie passed away last year at the age of 96 leaving the school with a memory the staff and students wished to honour.

The brainchild of teacher Penne Paltridge, the garden has come together with the assistance of donations from the community including Gambier Earth Works and Bunnings, and the artistic skills of other school staff but most importantly with the students planting shrubs and decorating the area with artworks reflecting their memory of Charlie and the messages he delivered when he spoke to the them and answered their questions about war and his military service.

An added attraction for the garden is a bench seat, donated by the family of airman Geoffrey David Abbott who drowned off Port MacDonnell in 1943 after baling out of his aircraft.

His is one of four World War Two airman’s graves in the Lake Terrace East Cemetery which are being tended to by students from the Moorak school following in Charlie’s footsteps as he looked after the graves for many years.

The opening ceremony for the garden began with student Makayla Fleming singing the Anzac version of ‘I am Australian’ before school captains Ben Harfull and Ethan Brook, being joint Master of Ceremonies, gave an overview of Charlie’s significance to the school.

“He loved coming to our school and we loved having him here,” said Ethan and Ben.

The boys explained that the students loved hearing Charlie’s story of growing up wanting to be a pilot and then becoming one at the age of 18, and his first experience in a spitfire – the aeroplane which he later flew during the war and taught other pilots to fly.

Mount Gambier Returned and Services League (RSL) President Bob Sandow undertook the official cutting of a ribbon to open the garden.

“Charlie would have loved to be here; this is a great way to respect him – he was a local hero,” said Mr Sandow.

Mr Sandow has offered an interview he did with Charlie about his life for use by the school so that Charlie’s message and stories could continue to be heard by new students at the school.

Teacher Penne Paltridge said the garden would continue to be developed with further artwork and plantings including Gallipoli, Anzac and RSL roses.