Vale Dr Richard Willson

It is with considerable sadness that we note the passing of Dr Richard (Dick) Willson.

Throughout his life he made an extraordinary contribution to the profession and the communities in which he lived.

Dick was a life member of the AVA – an honour that was well deserved.

Speaking at his funeral, Dr Tim Kuchel summed up eloquently in saying,

Dick and his exploits were larger than life and he was our own home-grown real James Herriot. He could tell a marvelous story, embellished with flair and great humour. He was great company, in any company.

Dick was in many ways a complicated but complete person. Enigmatic in the depth of his compassion for others, unwilting in his love of family, untiring in his community spirit, gifted in his ability to entertain and to inform, boyish in his enthusiasm, and highly skilled in his chosen Profession.

The Profession truly benefitted from Dick’s work, a fact that was honoured by the Association in 1980 when he was awarded a Meritorious Service Award.

He established and chaired the Rural Vets Practitioners Branch of the AVA here in South Australia, served as President of the SA Division in 1971 and was on the Veterinary Surgeons Board of SA for over a decade.  He also served as councilor on the national AVA for two terms and Convener and Secretary of the Federal Standing Committee on Professional Activities

Making good use of his parent’s belief in the value of good education, Dick excelled at school and worked hard to secure a cadetship with the SA Department of Agriculture to study Veterinary Science.  After starting his career in government he later moved into the private sector setting up a practice in Clare. It was a practice that grew to include branches in Laura, Port Pirie and Whyalla. 

Dick was a South Australian pioneer in many areas of livestock veterinary services. He was one of the first vets in Australia to perform AI in sheep and worked with the vet school in Melbourne to commercialise a sperm morphology service to the developing artificial breeding industry.

He was also instrumental in setting up the ovine brucellosis accreditation scheme for merino sheep studs and was a pioneer in the provision of whole of farm consultancy services. Then, following his retirement from traditional veterinary practice he became integrally involved in the management and upgrading of the live sheep export trade and of feedlots. 

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