Vale Bruce Treloar - City retail icon passes at 88

Bruce Treloar, the man described as the proudest proponent and the most passionate promoter of the city of Tamworth, has died, leaving a legacy of outstanding regional retail leadership.

Mr Treloar, the former patriarch of the Treloar retailing dynasty, died Saturday evening after a period of ill health ended by a recent battle with cancer and finally pneumonia.

TRELOAR TRADITION: Bruce Treloar, centre, with sons John and James at the 120th celebrations for their retailing history in 2011.

TRELOAR TRADITION: Bruce Treloar, centre, with sons John and James at the 120th celebrations for their retailing history in 2011.

The end came quickly but painlessly, according to two of his three sons, John and James, but not before they shared a weekly beer with him on Friday night, when he was chipper and upbeat.

He was 88 and, according to his sons, his defining character would be of his love and pride for his family, for his school, for his business and for his hometown.

“I think that defining quality was his love and pride for what he became involved in and the words that come together to best describe Bruce Treloar are that everything he loved, he was so proud of,” John Treloar said yesterday.

“And that extended to things like rugby, his schools, the development corporation, the chamber, the council.”

It’s doubtful anyone would have had as wide an influence in business and community circles as Mr Treloar did from the 1960s to his virtual retirement in the early ’90s. He was involved in a myriad of organisations and companies.

He was a former chairman of The Northern Daily Leader company, a director of the then NEN (now Prime) company, a councillor, a chamber of commerce leader, a Legacy leader.

While he came from a background of privilege, he gave back equally what he had been born to, son James, a former mayor said.

“As a young boy he wore shoes to school during the Depression. He went to Tamworth Public School then but he would take off his shoes and hide them behind a hedge and go barefoot to school like so many others in those days. Then he’d put them back on when he was on his way home,” James Treloar said.

“He was aware from a very early age of how lucky he was. He knew he had a good life and he gave back what he could.”

“Mind you, he loved to give advice whether you wanted it or not. He loved to tell people what they needed to know, even if they didn’t know it. He was a good man but he burnt a few friends that way.”

Mr Treloar was born in the family home in Upper St to Jack and Molly. His father was also a politician, the federal member for Gwydir (which covered this area back then) but he was born into the TJ Treloar retail family, founded in 1889 by Tommy Treloar.

After war service, and the death of Bruce’s older brother, he went into the family trade and ran it until well after his sons joined him in the 1970s.

The Treloar department store celebrated its 120 years of continuous trading in 2009, but it was only two years after that that the name disappeared from the retail landscape here.

Bruce Treloar was credited with helping to form the Tamworth Development Corporation in 1989 and became its initial chairman. Its role was to encourage industries and other business to Tamworth and many pundits credit it with attracting the Australia defence force and Singapore Airlines to do their flight training with the British Aerospace college.

He served with the retailers association of NSW for more than 30 years. 

His outstanding contribution to the community through his business and commerce credentials was recognised in June 1993 when he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the honours list.

A former mayor, Doug Campbell, has called him an icon of Tamworth, who after returning from a trip to America in the ’60s, was inspired to promote Tamworth as a magnet for world business, not just nationally.

Former federal member Tony Windsor yesterday said Bruce Treloar had “made an extraordinary contribution”, both in front of the scenes but also more importantly behind the scenes in Tamworth.

“He helped a lot of people and a lot of people didn’t know about it,” Mr Windsor said.

“His work with the development corporation and the retail traders sector from a country perspective showed outstanding and real leadership.”

A memorial service for Bruce Treloar will be held at St John’s church at 2.30pm Friday.

It will be, says his family, a real celebration of his life.

“He lived it well, he loved it and he had a good life,” James said.

Mr Treloar’s wife of more than 60 years, Janice, died in 2011. He is survived by his children Jane, John James and Bruce, and their partners, his grandchildren and by his sister Gai.

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