Camera club founder dies

CO-FOUNDER of the Wodonga Camera Club Ronald Smallpage continued his love of photography to the day he died.

In his final months, Mr Smallpage used his computer and printer to sort through photos and to build his family tree, which he had traced back to the 1600s.

The father of Norman, Maurice and Janice died at Wodonga’s Bupa Nursing Home on Friday aged 95.

His health had deteriorated over the past 12 months.

The camera club life member was six days shy of celebrating his 96th birthday but lived long enough to see his legacy celebrate its 60th anniversary this year.

His brother-in-law and fellow co-founder Ron Hanel said his mate could do anything he had a go at.

“He was very talented. It didn’t matter what he put his hand to,” Mr Hanel said.

“He used to repair radios. He was a good welder and a good mechanic, too.

“He built his own house by hand. He had his hand in everything and he could do anything.”

Mr Smallpage worked in the Army as a night watchman and helped fix tanks used in Vietnam.

In the early 1940s, he married Mr Hanel’s sister, Ena.

He cared for her when she lost her eyesight two years before her death 10 years ago.

The talented photographer founded the Wodonga Camera Club with about eight people in 1953.

But, as Mr Hanel remembers, it was a few months before the idea took hold.

“It was a bit slow at the beginning but when the Queen had her coronation the club decided to have a float and that’s how it all started,” Mr Hanel said.

“When people saw it they said ‘what’s this?’. And that’s how it started to grow.”

Today the club has 70 members and is going strong, thanks in part to digital photography’s transformation of the art.

But Mr Smallpage was a traditionalist when it came to developing his photos.

“He loved black and white,” Mr Hanel said.

“But he went over to colour like everyone else, then over to digital. He always had the best cameras you could buy.”

Mr Smallpage developed an interest in citizens’ band (CB) radio and he travelled around Australia twice to meet his many friends.

Mr Hanel said he would be missed by the many groups he was part of.

A funeral service will be held at the Conway Funeral Home chapel on Thursday at 11am.

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