FROM witnessing the escape of prisoners of war as a teenage soldier to conducting 500 marriages – Roy Guthrie had a dynamic life.
The former executive director of the Albury-Wodonga Chamber of Commerce died last Wednesday at the age of 91, after suffering his fourth stroke since 2013.
He was married to the founding boss of the Albury Art Gallery Audray Banfield and they had been due to mark their 34th wedding anniversary next month.
“He was very warm, very much a people person,” Dr Banfield said.
“He could talk under water with a mouthful of concrete.
“He was a good friend and a great husband.”
Born on August 19, 1926, Mr Guthrie grew up in Sydney in the beach suburb of Manly, with a primary school stint at Hillston in the northern Riverina where his father had an accountant’s job.
Amid World War II, a 17-year-old Roy who had heard the Japanese submarine attacks in Sydney Harbour, joined the army.
Within weeks he was stationed at the Cowra prisoner of war camp for Japanese internees and witnessed a mass breakout, resulting in the death of 231.
"A lot of them were as young as me, 17 or 18, and didn't know what to do when they came out of the huts, so wandered about aimlessly," Mr Guthrie said in 2008.
"They had been stirred up by older men and thought they were near the sea."
Mr Guthrie had three different stints in the army, spending his Korean War period overseeing a United Nations centre on a Japanese island for soldiers on rest.
He settled in Albury in the 1960s and had various jobs before being campaign manager for successful Albury Labor candidate Harold Mair in the 1978 NSW election.
He was Mr Mair’s electorate secretary for the decade he was in parliament.
Subsequently, Mr Guthrie became executive director of the Albury-Wodonga Chamber of Commerce before it was demerged.
In 1995, the long-time rugby referee stood unsuccessfully for Albury Council, saying he wanted to look at the region as a whole.
During the same period, Mr Guthrie qualified as a celebrant and would officiate at 500 weddings as well as funerals and baby-naming ceremonies.
Having never held a driver’s licence, Dr Banfield would ferry him to formalities with Mr Guthrie once conducting four weddings in a day.
With his personal needs forcing him to be more dependent, Mr Guthrie spent his final months at West Albury’s Dellacourt aged care complex.
His funeral will be held at Lester and Son undertakers from 2.30pm this Wednesday.