19 March 2019
VALE: Merv Lee-Archer OAM
One of NSW’s finest sports administrators has passed away. Mervyn Lee-Archer OAM dedicated a life to working for the sport, primarily with AAANSW (now Athletics NSW) and his club Western Suburbs Athletics Club (now Asics Wests). Aged 92, he passed away on Tuesday 12 February at the Arrunga Care Home.
Born on 21 April 1926, Merv grew up in Concord, attending Concord West Primary and Homebush Boys High. During his life he worked as an accountant for Van Treight Furniture.
In his early 20s he was a competitive NSW sprinter. His athletics career had started a little later in life as he served in the RAAF WWII seeing action in Papua New Guinea for two years from the age of 18.
He was on a club team which broke the NSW record and in 1951 was fourth in the NSW 100 yards championship. He was an important team athlete scoring many points for his club. In the 1951/52 season he competed in an amazing 64 events.
Immediately his own athletics career had wound down, he started officiating for Athletics NSW. At just 25, from 1952, he was a starters assistant and was an official at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.
Soon after, by the season of 1953/54, aged just 27, he was secretary of Western Suburbs Athletics club, setting a course of his future life. Three years later (1957) he was on the Athletics NSW Inter-Club Board and a member of the Inter-Club Executive.
At just 33, in 1959, he was made a life member of Western Suburbs club and later of AAANSW.
He remained secretary until the end of the 1956/57 season.
He took a break from the sport in the early ‘60s when his daughter Alison passed away from cancer in 1963 aged just two.
After the break, he returned to the executive in 1965/66 as President, a position he would hold until the 1989/90 season – a staggering 24 years. During the 1988/89 season he was also Treasurer, a position he held later from 1990/91 to 1993/94. He held other positions including Cross Country Secretary in the 1990s and remained on the club committee until 2010, aged 84.
From the late 1950s until the late 1990s, around 40 years, Merv held an extensive list of Athletics NSW positions, during most years he averaged around six each year. Here is a list of those roles:
Treasurer Athletics NSW 1962
Executive Committee member
Honorary Secretary of the Inter-Club Board
Inter-Club Board Executive Member
Inter-Club assistant Grading Officer
Assistant Grading Officer
Member of the Track and Field Championships Organising Committee
N.S.W. Schoolboys Cross-Country Co-organiser
State Championship Manager/Recorder
State Track and Field Selector
State Harrier Season Selector
Harrier Board handicapper
Course Committee member
Member of the Sun/Adidas Award Committee
Member of Metropolitan Development Committee
Member of the Special Competitions Committee
State Coaches Board Secretary
For decades he and Helen would prepare the state championship programs, an enormous job. Helen would type them up including the results.
He was also involved with the management of club facilities, the track and canteen in particular, which through school carnivals was the main club revenue base.
He was also heavily involved with the city to surf, and described as the architect of the West Metropolitan Series (Cross Country competition) which started on 25 August 1957 and is still going strongly today, particularly thanks to Merv and Dave Archbold in recent decades.
In the later ‘60s and ‘70s, Merv’s son Adrian was a prominent junior athlete. He won various state titles in the 400m and 800m and was a member of the club relay team that set national records. Merv’s great grand-daughter Abigail is showing talent as a distance and cross country runner in Canberra.
Merv was also involved with the Transplant Games following Helen’s kidney transplant in 1986.
On 18 October 1997, as his service to Athletics NSW and Western Suburbs Athletics Club was winding down, he was honoured with a dinner, titled ‘Tribute to Merv Lee-Archer Evening’ at Auburn R.S.L. to pay tribute to his 50 years of dedicated and devoted service to the Club and the sport.
In June 1999, Merv Lee-Archer received the Order of Australia (O.A.M.) on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. This was for his service to amateur athletics at Club and State levels.
Sadly two years later, Merv lost his wife Helen. She had worked tirelessly for the Club over many years, also with the West Metropolitan Winter season and the running of the canteen and for Athletics NSW on programs on results.
It is the dedication of Merv and Helen to results and programs during these decades that we have such good records remaining for this period of the sport.
Merv served on the organising committee for the club’s 100th Anniversary Dinner (and many others) which was held at the Lidcombe Catholic Club on 13 March 2004. He was passionate about the proud history of the club and along with Michael Doggett and Phil Donelan authored an extensive history of the club produced in 2014.
The years of dedication by Merv to the sport has enabled thousands of athletes to participate and enjoy the sport. Without his devotion, aspects of the sport would not have functioned, or operated at a much lesser level. The sport and the lives of thousands of athletes, coaches, officials and families have been made richer by Merv’s involvement in the sport.
Merv leaves behind a son Adrian, daughter Elizabeth; grand-children Wayne, Graeme, Liam, Sarah and Ryan, and; great grand-children Zeke, Toby, Abigail, Ashton, Bailey, Fynn and Eli.
Asics Wests club are planning a commemoration for Merv at 11.00am on April 14 at Wyatt Park, Auburn. All club members and friends of Merv are welcome to attend.
David Tarbotton for Athletics NSW
Tributes to Merv:
DAVID LEWIS: “Merv was an ornament to the sport of athletics - whether as an athlete, an official or as an administrator. But this is not what defines Merv’s contribution to athletics. Rather, it was the friendship and comradery that Merv showed to all those he met that marked
him out. Whether you were a national champion, a young novice starting out or a veteran just trying to keep fit, Merv was there for you with support, helpful advice and words of encouragement. That will always be how I will remember Merv.”
DAVID ARCHBOLD: “Merv’s life journey. On his personal side he had a number of profound challenges, the loss of a child, grandchild and his dear wife, Helen. I remember well Merv taking Helen for cancer treatment, a regular time consuming part of their day. However, despite of all this, he gave so much to athletics, which shows not only the mark of the man but the athlete in him too.
He understood there was much to do behind the scenes – from organising the event, choosing the awards, setting up the event venue, recording the results, packing up, publishing the results and making sure your star athlete was never forgotten. That once meant arranging for Australian “Golden Girl – Betty” her air travel from Western Australia, with her carer to attend West’s 100th Anniversary Dinner (2004) – twelve West’s Olympians were in attendance.
On a lighter side Merv had many stories:
He shared the same birthday as Queen Elizabeth II; however he was the senior by a few hours.
The time one of the race leaders was almost washed away in a NSW cross country championship event.
He was the descendent of the architect of Tasmania’s many government historic buildings.
The one I like – Merv the youngster rowing across the Parramatta River in a boys hand made boat. Yes corrugated iron sheet, and yes it sank.
I hold dear to me the memories of Merv & Helen.”