FROM the age of 12, Roger Clark mowed lawns on weekends until he had enough money to buy his first typewriter. In his teens, he bought a second hand ink duplicator and printed greyhound form guides which he sold to punters outside the local track, at least until the authorities banished him.
Despite a 50-year career in sales, marketing, management and logistics, Roger was at his happiest when he was writing and publishing.
It was not to be. Roger died last Wednesday. On Tuesday, hundreds of his friends attended a celebration of his life in Grantville.
Roger and his wife Vicki came to live in Grantville in 2009 and immediately became involved in the local community. He began writing for the Bass Valley News the following year, eventually becoming editor before starting his own publication, the Waterline News.
The Waterline News began as a 12-page newsletter. It grew year by year until by 2019 it was 64 pages, crammed with articles, public notices and ads, an invaluable social glue for the Waterline communities and surrounds. A team of helpers delivered 1500 copies to 110 outlets, from Tooradin through to Cowes and French Island. Another 1000 or so copies are emailed to subscribers.
Although nominally a commercial operation, any profits were given away to community organisations it was heavily subsidised out of Roger’s own pocket. He was also generous with his time and praise. He was forever giving away advertising space, understandably to community groups and non-profit enterprises, less understandably to local businesses. Despite his business background, he remained a sucker for a hard luck story.
To balance that, Roger inspired loyalty in a team of proof-readers and distributors who helped keep the operation running when he was at a low ebb.
Roger had battled a “manageable” cancer and severe rheumatoid arthritis for many years, enduring surgery after surgery as the cancer spread and morphed.
“Through all of this, The Waterline News has helped to keep me ‘sane’,” he wrote in the Post in 2016. “Two recent editions were set out from my temporary office at Casey Hospital, and two editions were delivered entirely by the help of three volunteer/friends.”
“I have to keep going, otherwise I will go mad,” he confided to a friend.
He also published the Victorian Greyhound Weekly and last year began a new online local history publication, The Westernport Times.
In February, when he was informed he had a new and deadly cancer, his immediate thoughts were for the future of the Waterline News.
“I’ve put too much hard work into it to think that it will die with me,” he wrote to me. “Anyway that’s not happening today, so better get on with it.”
When it came to getting his affairs in order, Roger was meticulous. In late April, he handed publication of The Westernport Times over to Geoff Guilfoyle. He farewelled readers of his Victorian Greyhound Weekly in late May. And he appointed a local writer, Geoff Ellis, to take over the Waterline News.
Geoff visited Roger in hospital in April to discuss the transition. “When I finally find him he's typing,” Geoff wrote at the time. “Of course. There's a paper to get out. The April edition of the Waterline News. As I walk him back to room 55, he tells me he's glad the Waterline News won't die with him.”
With his “babies” in safe hands, Roger faced his future with courage and equanimity. Last week he was even contemplating writing a book, but it was not to be.
In a tribute in the Waterline News this week, Geoff wrote “Roger Clark developed a great magazine and created an enormous network of dedicated contributors, advertisers, community advocates, readers and friends over the last five years.
“Roger strove to make this magazine a beacon of community strengthening and information across our region. He was always making the next edition the best edition.”
Behind the lines: Roger Clark's story