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20 January 2021
By SARAH MATTHEWS
Australia Day honours are rarely expected, always humbling and often act as a call-to-arms for fellow community members to step up and make a contribution.
This year’s Horsham Rural City Council citizen of the year Colin Puls and young citizen Bart Turgoose are no exception, using their moment in the spotlight to encourage the region’s residents to offer a helping hand.
Mr Puls, 85, has been the driving force behind Sunnyside Lutheran Retirement Village, SLRV, for almost 40 years and is a well-known businessman, Rotarian and philanthropist.
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On Australia Day, he will also become the municipality’s citizen of the year.
“It was a bit of a shock, I never even thought about it until I got told,” Mr Puls said.
“I hope it might encourage other people to become involved in the community, to see what can be done.”
Mr Puls has volunteered on the SLRV board since 1982, including many years as chairman, and his skill in seeking out and successfully applying for funding has enabled the home to prosper.
He said he became interested in the village after his uncle became a resident at the first rest home on Sunnyside’s current site.
Mr Puls said he ‘had opinions on things I thought they did wrong’, was asked to join the board and had been involved ever since.
He oversaw the construction of a new complex, which includes Trinity Manor, 48 independent-living townhouses and a large community centre.
He was also involved in Sunnyside taking over management of ex-Department of Health and Human Services units on the same site, allowing ‘less advantaged people the ability to live in excellent accommodation that is bright, clean and safe’.
As board chairman, Mr Puls juggles a large workload, including overseeing worker conditions, resident needs and aged-care legislation and compliance.
He said 2020 had been a particularly stressful year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Sunnyside residents living in ‘close quarters’.
“If COVID had got through it would have been very serious. But we are still very vigilant, and the staff are very good,” he said.
“I’m proud of the rest home, but it’s a district home, it’s not mine.
“People need to support it, because aged care is a big thing these days. The cost of caring for these people is astronomical because of all the regulations.”
Mr Puls has helped less advantaged members of the community on a regular basis through his work in the aged-care sector and has personally, and through Rotary International, donated to many causes.
He said he loved being a Rotarian, particularly participating in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program for many years with his wife, Loloma.
“We hosted our first exchange student in ’82 or ’83. She was from Denmark and still refers to me as her Aussie dad,” he said.
“Loloma and I have been over to visit her several times. We have a son who lived in Europe for 15 or 16 years and were lucky enough to spend a lot of time over there.”
Mr Puls has travelled extensively through his association with Rotary and his former role as a Case IH machinery dealer.
As owner of CH Puls and Co, Mr Puls built a successful farm machinery enterprise that employed many Horsham district residents and serviced the wider rural community. The business still exists today as O’Connor’s Machinery.
Mr Puls passed his technical ability and knowledge onto his son, Mark, who operates Puls Engineering, fixing and servicing machinery that would otherwise be made redundant.
Despite retiring in 1999, Mr Puls spends most of his days working at his son’s business or helping Sunnyside in his capacity as board chairman.
Mr and Mrs Puls have five children and will celebrate 60 years of marriage in December this year.
Mr Puls said his family would watch the Horsham Rural City Council Australia Day service via livestream.
“My kids like to give me a bit of stick for being an old man, but I reckon they’ll be proud,” he said.
“At the end of the day, I’ve been able to do everything I’ve done because of the support of my family.”
This year’s Horsham community event of the year accolade goes to a three-day music reunion, 60 Years of Wimmera Rock.
Thousands of people enjoyed the event in February 2020, with band members returning to Horsham to participate.
More than 50 bands and musicians performed at three concerts over two nights.
The event was the brainchild of Lynton Brown, who said he was pleased with the recognition.
“The event went off pretty well. We did have some weather issues, which caused a few headaches, but we were able to reschedule a few things,” he said.
The entire January 20, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!