Roelof Smilde, a champion bridge player, punter and activist died in hospital on 14 April 2017 after major surgery. He was a long term resident of Glebe, member of the Glebe Society and a Glebe legend! Roelof was known by many for his activism for social justice. I first got to know Roelof in 1989 when we mounted a campaign to ‘Save the Abbey’ on Bridge Rd. His other activist campaigns included ‘Save Glebe Post Office’ and his endeavour to bring community banking to Glebe. For many years Roelof worked tirelessly as a volunteer tutor at Glebe Youth Service to assist young people with their education.
Roelof migrated with his parents from Holland when was nine years old. He attended North Sydney Boys’ High and became school captain and won a place at the University of Sydney. By 1951 his life changed. He opted out of university and embraced a life of rebellion. Discussion, debating, gambling, playing bridge and indulging in political philosophy in Manning House consumed his time. Roelof attracted many friends, many of whom are also well known in their own right. It was during this period that the Sydney Push was formed and it became a significant force for Sydney’s ‘coming of age’. Roelof was the oldest living member.
Roelof was always happy to engage in political dialogue with anyone who wished to join the discussion. His intellect, writing and knowledge were affirmed by everyone. Roelof was a regular visitor to Sonoma Café and AB Hotel in later years. He was always seen consuming the Sydney Morning Herald, completing the cryptic crossword and sudoku.
Roelof will be sadly missed by all who knew him, in particular the staff at Sonoma Café.
Our condolences to his family and dear friends.