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VALE Don "Bristles" Alexander

VALE Don "Bristles" Alexander

Today we are sad to announce the passing of one of our great mates. Bristles, as he was known to all, was a bloody good bloke. He was first a Husband, Father and Grandfather and our thoughts are with wife Robyn, son Brendon, daughters Chrissie and Jacky in this especially tough Covid time when families are locked away from proper goodbyes.

The sport of Surf Lifesaving and particularly Surfboats is very rarely fortunate enough to have a Bristles on their team. He was everything you could expect from a leader. He was hard working, diligent, tough, compassionate, a mentor to many and a friend to all. His contribution and involvement in surfboats as a Sweep well into his 70’s and as an Administrator for longer is a lesson in hard work and dedication.

In his youth Bristles was a Champion Ten Pin Bowler and that sport’s loss was a massive gain for surfboat rowing. Bristles joined the ASRL Committee in the 2010-11 season and held the role of Treasurer continuously until he retired at the last AGM in 2020. In that time Bristles was an integral part of the ASRL team that delivered so much in the area of policy change and technology development for the sport that will live on as part of his legacy.

On this very sad news day, please take the time to read a gentleman’s story. Remember him as he would have wanted: he faced his inevitable death as he did everything else with a level of dignity and stoicism.

Tonight, we raise a Schooner of the best Coopers Pale Ale as we share some quite time to reflect on a life well lived.

RIP Bristles

Bert Hunt
Life Member - Australian Surf Rowers League

Bristles is one of those very special people we get to meet only a few times in our lives. He is dedicated, inciteful, cranky, stubborn and loyal, all in the correct proportions. If you ask Bristles to take on a task you can be sure he will attack it with his full attention and to the very best of his ability. He is resourceful and thorough in his approach to the job at hand and never afraid to give others a shove along if he thinks that is what is needed.

A brief outline of Dons involvement with both the ASRL and SLS in general:
• Has been an ASRL member since the late 90’s
• He joined the ASRL committee on the 10 July 2010 as a Vice President
• In 2010 he agreed to switch roles on the ASRL Committee to that of Treasurer
• In 2011 Don also took on the responsibilities of ASRL Registrar which entails managing a database of a few thousand memberships
• Don is still serving the ASRL membership in the dual roles of Treasurer and Registrar
• As a committee member on the ASRL Don has been a strong advocate for making changes to SLS policies that benefit the rowers
• Don is a key member of the ASRL committee and has played an important role in the introduction of technology to our sport e.g. Line Finish Cameras and Live Streaming of events
• Don was a Foundation member of the South Port SA Surf Club in 1959
• In 1975 Don was awarded Life Membership of the South Port Surf Club
• As a Boat Sweep Don’s crews have won SA State Championships and represented SLSSA in Interstate Championships
• Don served for over 20 years as Treasurer of the ASRLSA
• Also serving a 20-year stint as South Port surf club treasurer
• Don was inducted into the ASRLSA Hall of Fame in 2010
• Don was the inaugural President and served as President of the SLSSA Board of Surf Sports between 1994 and 2010
• Just to round out his service to Surfboats Don was the SA Boat Referee for 4 years and also refereed the National Surfboat Selection Trials at Elouera

My close mate.

I have not put my thoughts on paper until I got the phone call from Rob (Bristles partner) at 5.45am this morning (6/10/20) to say Don had passed away at 9pm last night. I guess I was living in false hope knowing what a tough bloody mate he was.

To me he was the ever dependable and reliable great friend that had the ability to inspire and enthuse people like no-one else I knew. Over the past many years I was proud to call Don a true mate. We had many heated discussions over different issues but always either agreed to disagree or resolve those issues. The 12 years I was President of South Port Club I had Bristles by my side as treasurer, his support could never be overstated, thanks Bris.

Even though Don and Rob moved to Qld he was still there on the phone for frequent life conversations, his advice will be sadly missed.

To the surfboat fraternity around Australia his commitment to try and make things better for us all will be a hard act to follow, the beach especially at the Aussie Open will not be the same.

Bristles was someone that always had your back and as Bert Hunt said when you went over the wall he was the man you wanted with you.

My thoughts are with Rob, Jackie, Kristina, Brendan, Brad and Belinda and their families

Rest in Peace mate, the “end of an era” indeed.

John 'Devo' Devitt

South Port SLSC Tribute

Don ‘Bristles’ Alexander joined South Port Surf Life Saving Club in 1959/60, was a Foundation Member of the club and awarded Life Membership in 1975.
Besides being Club Treasurer for 20 years, he also held numerous other positions including Boat Captain, Head Coach, Publicity Officer, Bar Manager and was a regular Patron of the club’s winter swimmers, the South Port Shivering Shags!
‘Bristles’ was a long time ‘boatie’ from mainly a sweeping perspective, but was also more than able to pull an oar being successful with Masters crews at South Port winning successive gold medals in the 220 Division in the SA State Champs.
He swept Junior, Open Women and Masters crews to numerous medals and in particular Open Women’s State Champs in 2002, 2004, 2009 and 2012, with his crews making the last 10 at two Australian Championships.
He was a member the SA State Team on eight occasions, two being Manager.
Not known to many, ‘Bristles’ was also a committed March Past member winning two Australian Bronze medals for South Port in 1997 and 1998!
Don ‘Bristes’ Alexander’s wisdom, humour, leadership and quiet demeanour will be sadly missed by all at South Port Surf Club and beyond.
Fly high Bris RIP…

Dick ‘Olly’ Olesinski
South Port SLSC
Club President

Don Cotterill - Life Member, ASRL

Bristles had such an influence on so many. He had a major part in the strong position the ASRL finds its self today. He was a steady hand and guiding influence. Well known for his thrifty management of the beer tickets at the ASRL Open , Bristles was respected by all. Progressive , reliable , dedicated , thoughtful are some attributes that Bristles bought to the table. A well deserved Life Member of the ASRL who will be sadly missed.

Aaron Tannahill - Personal Friend

It was a privilege to have know Bristles for a number of years. He influenced everyone around him, and it is a credit to the great man that the ASRL is in the position it is in today. His guidance was appreciate by all, and his experience couldn't be matched. 

Bristles was the one person I would call for anything. Anything from personal advice, ASRL guidance or a simple call on how to hold a boat straight. It was fair to say discussions could become heated, but that was the passion Bristles had, and I can tell you he was always right.

We were room mates at all ASRL trips, and I was thankful I could spend the time I did with him, and it was heartbreaking to watch his health deteriorate in recent times.

I fear for the new person who will take the reigns of distributing beer tickets at the ASRL Open.

Love ya mate.
ASRL SA Tribute

Bristles was a rare breed that we in SA were so lucky to call our own.

He was generous, kind, determined and a great mate to many.

He made the sport of surf boats more accessible to all, with the initiatives and changes he introduced. Bristles shared success by giving his time and knowledge not to just his club crews, but many of the SA crews up and down the coast.

Bris worked hard to advance our sport and one of those key areas he advocated for was women in surf boats. In recent times Bristles helped to usher in the new divisions of U19 Women and Reserve Grade Women.
Being a passionate, fierce competitor, he loved to see the SA crews succeed on a national platform.

His passing will leave a large hole in SA , particularly for those of us who still to this day have frequent chats to talk rowing, technique, programs, gym and general surf club crap.

In the words of his wife, this is the “End of an era” We now need to start a new era and continue the legacy this true gentleman has left behind.

We’ll miss you Bris, RIP

Natasha Tunney and Jason McGaffin 

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