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Obituary: Ronald Francis Rowe

Obituary: Ronald Francis Rowe

By Law Institute Journal

Legal Biography 


Ronald Francis Rowe

23 June 1944 – 3 March 2021

Ron Rowe was president of the Eastern Suburbs Law Association (ESLA) from 2004 to 2011 and in 2012 was recognised as Suburban Lawyer of the Year in the LIV Legal Awards. 

Ron was the son of John Rowe from England and Clarice Jones who was born in Dobie, near Ararat. He was brought up in St Kilda, the eldest of five children, and attended St Kilda Park State School, Elwood Central and Elwood High School. Ron studied law at the University of Melbourne while he also worked as a taxi driver. His younger brother Graham followed in his footsteps becoming a lawyer. 

Ron was an active man for most of his life. He was a keen sportsman who played cricket and football until his teens when ice hockey became his focus. He also enjoyed surfing, skiing and riding trail bikes as well as tennis and golf. 

Ron married Kaye McFerran in 1967, the same year he was admitted to practice, and they went on to have three children Martin, Campbell and Wendy and two grandchildren. In 1995 Ron married Kristy Dwyer and after the marriage ended, he formed a relationship with Kathy Graham. 

Ron did articles at Wisewoulds, Duncan and Hanger then worked at the Camberwell firm of Thomas Bell and James. He became partner there a year later and the firm’s name changed to Bell, McCullagh and Rowe, later shortened to BMR Lawyers. 

Ron claimed he was a reluctant president of ESLA. But having accepted the role of vice-president, he was soon drafted to the position of president. In that position, he chaired regular meetings, usually at Mihali’s Tavern in Box Hill, and organised a range of specialist speakers to provide continuing legal education for a growing number of ESLA members. He regularly invited LIV representatives to inform members about the activities of the LIV. After the formalities, banquet-style dinners were served at reasonable cost providing opportunities for networking and socialising, greatly appreciated by those who attended. 

The September 2012 LIJ records that at the age of 68, Ron wanted to start enjoying the fruits of his labour and decided to sell his practice. He had software which enabled him to produce his figures “at the touch of a button” and the practice was sold with the assistance of a broker. This left Ron, in his own words “free to enjoy travel and socialising”. 

He travelled extensively with Kathy. Ron’s daughter Wendy lived in France and Kathy had a daughter living in the UK, so they travelled to Europe frequently. Ron visited Thailand with his sister Jacque on two occasions, and in 2016 with Ian Mckenzie and Graeme Little, he crossed the United States using Route 66, driving a Buick LeSabre. In 2018 and 2019, he travelled to India and Sri Lanka with fellow retired lawyer, John Perry. 

Over many years Ron organised a weekly lunch for a group of friends he called the “Grog Squad”. Having known Ron from our days at primary school, I was pleased to be invited to these lunches in recent years. Ron always took considerable trouble to research appropriate venues and negotiated special deals with restaurateurs on the understanding we lunched with them on a regular basis. 

Ron experienced heart problems about eight years ago and underwent a quadruple bypass operation. He became ill again in 2019, and was eventually diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in January 2020. Facing his diagnosis with great fortitude and matter-of-factness, Ron decided to write his biography with the help of writer Anna Morgan. The title of his account “Making the Most of Life” illustrates how he felt about his situation. True to the spirit of making the most of everything, he lashed out and bought a sports car and attended his last Friday lunches in a white Ford Mustang. 

Ron put much time and effort into making his term as president of ESLA a great success and displayed the same generosity of spirit in the years of organising lunches and rounds of golf for his friends. He remained close with his children, siblings and grandchildren and kept in touch with his close friends. During his final illness Ron was cared for at home by his family. 

Ron will be greatly missed by family, friends and former colleagues in the legal profession. ■

This obituary was prepared by Ron Rowe’s friend Andrew Goddard.


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