- Greg Davis
Legends of the Nepean: Owen and Martin Rogers
OWEN and Martin Rogers are the type of blokes you would want in the trenches with you, affixing bayonets before storming over the top.
The brothers are the driving force behind the thought-provoking Poppy Park in Penrith which has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the nation as well as internationally.
As you are aware, dear readers, the brothers, family members and around 700 volunteers have planted 102,804 red poppies in Penrith’s Judges Park – that is the exact number of Australian servicemen and women who have given their lives serving this country.
There is also a lovely purple rose which commemorates the loss of life of the many thousands of animals – horse, dogs, donkeys and pigeons – which also fell on battlefields from the Sudan campaign in 1885 through to the most recent battlefield in Afghanistan.
“Even though we remember and commemorate collectively the battles fought, as families fade and generations pass, the individuals who gave their lives during these battles may no longer have anyone to specifically remember them and the sacrifice they made,” said big brother Own, 51.
“It is the vision of Remember a Soldier that each of our fallen heroes be remembered personally each year, by at least one family in Australia.”
Each of the poppies, made up of a long green stem, fabric red petals and a black centre piece will have the name of a fallen sailor, solider or airman or woman who fell in battle.
Single poppies are being sold for $17.90 including postage and family of four poppies for $39.95 again including postage.
All proceeds from the sale of the poppies and the gold coin donation of those who visit the park and take a ride 11 metres up on the viewing platform will be split 50/50 between Legacy and the Penrith RSL sub-branch.
Poppy Park opened on March 21 and closes on April 29.
“At the conclusion of Poppy Park, the poppies, with the names of our fallen heroes will be collected, packed into commemorative boxes and sent to the people and organisations across Australia that purchased them, to keep as their own little memento of their contribution to Poppy Park.” Owen said.
“Then come Remembrance Day in November, each person will have a poppy and the name of a fallen hero to personally remember.
“Names are being randomly assigned, as it’s important that all soldiers, sailors and airmen and women are remembered.
“If people were to choose their own name then those who have no one left to remember them, may go unassigned.
“There is then the added benefit that it creates a new connection with someone you may have never known, yet we all owe so much.”
So far around 15,000 poppies have been sold but Martin and Owen expect numbers to surge as Anzac Day approaches.
“We want to find a home for all of the fallen,” 40-year-old Martin added.
You can purchase your poppy by visiting the park which is open 9am-8pm daily or visiting poppypark.org.au and following the simple instructions.
The catalyst for the idea of Poppy Park occurred last November when Owen and Martin discovered that their great-great uncles, Herbert and Claude Page, had died on the battlefield in World War I.
“Both men survived Gallipoli before being posted to the Western Front where they lost their lives,” Owen explained.
“So we just boarded a plane and flew over there to visit their grave-sites.”
Herbert’s grave is in Villers-Brettoneux and Claude’s at Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium.
“It got us thinking about how many other fallen have been forgotten and that we should do something about it,” Owen said.
And the Poppy Park idea was born.
“We approached Penrith City Council in December and discussed our idea of a Poppy Park with them and they kindly offered us the use of Judges Park for five weeks.
One of the students from the Rogers’ old alma mater, Connor Jurkovic, designed the Poppy Park.
So who are Owen and Martin Rogers?
The Rogers clan – dad, a navy man, mum, and nine children, moved into Penrith in 1974 and all the siblings attended either St Dominic’s College or Caroline Chisholm College.
Owen is married to Natalie and they have five children and four grandchildren while Martin and his wife, Lyndal, have two adult children.
The brothers operated Mul-T-Lock in Penrith from 2000 until selling the business in May, last year.
Owen now splits his time between a home at Cranebrook and a hobby farm at Oberon and Martin lives at Lapstone.
Martin, who has university degrees in both science and business, mentors businessmen and women in aiding them to improve their skills.
Both he and Owen are heavily involved in visiting schools to talk with Year 10 and 11 pupils about the transition from school to work.
Owen is a long-time board member of the Nepean Area Disability Organisation (NADO) and chairman of the Penrith CBD Corporation.
What’s that old saying? If you want something done, give it to a busy man or woman.
The Rogers brothers are always busy – and but never too busy to put their efforts into something else.
For that, we should all be thankful.
Lest we forget.