Stolz family marks centenary of serving trust

By Benalla Ensign

It was April 1918 – four years of world war was soon to end and even in small Victorian country towns it could not come soon enough.

On November 11 this year Australia and the rest of the Allied nations will commemorate that 100 years, and all the other wars and deaths that have come in years between.

But a sad death much closer to home would also see the first step in a family commitment to serving its community.

And this month that dynastic duty is a centenary to be celebrated.

One hundred years ago James Daniel Collins — who had been chairman of the cemetery trust — died and the search began for his replacement.

The Benalla Cemetery Trust was inaugurated in 1854, and charged with the responsibility of managing the town’s newly established burial ground.

Trust members were all voluntary in their capacity and were to reflect appropriately high standing in their community.

Two members from each of the mainline church congregations were to be submitted and the first trust began with eight trustees.

Just 4km from the heart of Benalla, the Benalla Lawn and Memorial Cemetery today is an attractive and tranquil place of repose for the pioneers and residents of the north east Victorian district.

The Benalla cemetery is rich in Australian history, including many noted identities from the infamous Ned Kelly legend.

Historic walks and trails make the cemetery a must-see point of reference.

And one local family pivotal in the ongoing development and maintenance of the cemetery will look back on its service with pride.

Lawrence Stolz, the proprietor of Stolz Furnishers, has been an active member of the trust for the past 42 years — making him one of the longest serving trust members in the 164 years of the cemetery.

His involvement, this month, completes an unbroken chain for the past 100 years, when his grandfather Christopher was first invited to represent the Methodist church.

In 1918 William Clemens of the Methodist Church submitted the 42-year-old’s name for the role, another quirky connection to this year’s celebrations with his grandson having served 42 years.

Benalla Cemetery Trust secretary Jeff Knight said Christopher, the first Stolz, who had opened the family store 15 years earlier, was appointed to the position by the Public Health Department of Victoria, and served until his death in 1959.

Following that, Jeff said, there was little hesitation in recruiting his son Henry as the second Stolz, in order to replace his father and further represent the congregation of the Benalla Methodist Church.

‘‘Henry served on the trust for 17 years before his death in 1976,’’ Jeff said.

‘‘At which time Lawrence, choosing to continue in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, was appointed by the Department of Health and inducted on May 4.

‘‘This year this third Stolz member and his family, which has been so vitally involved in the business community of Benalla for so long, have been recognised for unstinting service to Benalla and region.

‘‘At a recent trust dinner, Lawrence’s, and his family’s, milestone was recognised with Certificates of Recognition from both the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of Victoria.’’

Lawrence shared the proud occasion with his wife Anne.