Anzac service role ending

Attending Anzac Day services this year will be moving  for Dunedin RSA president Lox Kellas, who...
Attending Anzac Day services this year will be moving for Dunedin RSA president Lox Kellas, who is stepping down as co-ordinator of Anzac Day commemorations after 20 years in the role. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
Looking out over the crowds attending Anzac Day services next Wednesday will be bittersweet for Dunedin RSA president Major (Rtd) Lox Kellas.

After 20 years at the helm of the city's annual Anzac Day and Armistice Day commemorations, he will step down as co-ordinator at the end of this year.

Looking back over the years, Mr Kellas (71) has been pleased with the strengthening support from the community, particularly for Anzac Day, with thousands turning out for services.

"Our biggest year by far was 2015, marking the centenary of Gallipoli, when we had that huge crowd of about 20,000. It was an amazing sight to look out and see all those faces as the sun started to rise.''

Mr Kellas and the late John Campbell, a former Dunedin and National RSA president, increased the involvement of the armed forces and integrated young people into Anzac Day services.

"That is a really nice aspect of Anzac Day, to have a generation of young people coming along to pause and reflect on the efforts of their great-grandparents, who fought to safeguard the lifestyle they enjoy today.''

The past four years had been an opportunity to remind people of important events in New Zealand history through commemorations of the centenary of World War 1.

This would culminate on Armistice Day, November 11, and planning is well under way in Dunedin to mark the cessation of hostilities at 11am on November 11.

This year's Anzac Day commemorations are being held against a backdrop of continual change for the Dunedin RSA, and for the organisation across New Zealand.

With numbers of World War 2 veterans dwindling, and those remaining well into their 90s, the shape of the veteran community was changing, Mr Kellas said.

Post World War 2 deployments to conflicts in Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, Timor and Afghanistan involved much smaller groups, meaning veterans were more "spread out''.

"And the wants and needs of younger veterans are going to be quite different from older veterans,'' Mr Kellas said.

The major efforts of the Dunedin RSA were at a ceremonial level and supporting the welfare of veterans in the region.

Another major change for Mr Kellas happens tomorrow when he retires as a senior constable at Portobello.

He will not be putting his feet up entirely though, as he plans to continue his roles with the Dunedin RSA, Otago Peninsula Community Board and Marine Search and Rescue.

"And my wife has given me a list, so there will be plenty to do,'' he said.

BRENDA.HARWOOD @thestar.co.nz

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