LEN Ablett, sporting icon and civic leader, was laid to rest yesterday in the Myrtleford cemetery at the bottom of picturesque hills surrounding his beloved town.
Fittingly, his coffin, when inside St Paul’s Anglican Church, was draped with the Ovens and Murray premiership flag won by Myrtleford in 1970.
It was recognition of how much he contributed to the Saints’ only premiership in its 56-year association with the O and M league.
Eleven players from that glorious victory — coach Martin Cross, Bruce Waite, Dale Walker, Bob and Alan Crisp, Denis Piazza, Alan Heberle, Deric Taylor, Doug Cooper, Pat Quirk and Noel Holmes — gathered for a fitting farewell.
The accolades came thick and fast for someone who did so much for the district.
Mr Ablett was 91 when he died last Tuesday and had been in poor health for some time.
His nephew, Ian Walkear, delivered the eulogy about a man who achieved many milestones in his life time and had been Richmond’s oldest living premiership player.
Mr Ablett, an uncle of Geelong legend Gary, joined Richmond in the time of the great Jack Dyer and played from 1938 to 1943 before going home to the family’s Buffalo River area property.
He was 29 when he returned to Myrtleford and he coached the club before steeping down in 1946, but continued playing until 1955.
The club joined the Ovens and Murray along with Wangaratta Rovers in 1950 and after his retirement Mr Ablett became heavily involved in administration.
The pavilion at the McNamara Reserve was named after him in 1974, he was the club’s first life member and had 20 years as president.
Mr Walkear said his uncle’s contribution to the Myrtleford district was “nothing short of amazing”.
He became a league vice-president, life member of the O and M and was recently inducted in its Hall of Fame.
Myrtleford Football Club president Bill O’Donohue said the club would not have survived without his efforts.
Mr O’Donohue said people had to make sure the club kept going as a fitting legacy to Mr Ablett.
Alpine council mayor Daryl Pearce offered his sympathy to Mr Ablett’s widow, Ora, and family members.
Mr Pearce said Mr Ablett was the first Ovens and King footballer to kick 100 goals, but his contributions in life extended far beyond.
He was a former Myrtleford shire councillor and Mr Pearce described him as a “tireless community-minded person”.
“Well done, Len Ablett. Congratulations on an outstanding life,” he said.
Many sporting luminaries attended the funeral, including former Hawthorn champion Michael Tuck.
Tuck’s wife, Faye, is the daughter of Alf Ablett, a first cousin of Mr Ablett.
Past players, officials and members of the Myrtleford Football Club formed a guard of honour in Clyde St as the hearse carried Mr Ablett away from the church.
Another guard of honour was formed at the Myrtleford cemetery.