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Vale Claire Wehner

Around 9.00 pm on April 8, the ACT orienteering community lost one of the early stalwarts of the development of the sport in Canberra.  David Hogg has prepared this tribute to Claire Wehner, and the members of the entire orienteering community extend their sincere sympathy to Hermann, Martin and Kirsten.

The Wehner family began orienteering in mid-1972, just over a year after the sport became established in Canberra. They were one of several families associated with the Mount Stromlo Observatory, which was one of three ‘cells’ that formed the backbone of early ACT orienteering. (The others were the Canberra College of Advanced Education (now the University of Canberra) Outdoors Club and the CSIRO Division of Wildlife Research). In those days, typical event entries were between ten and twenty people, and events were organised by a single person, rather similar to the current Wednesday lunchtime events.

Initially, just Hermann and Martin took part on a regular basis, although Claire often came with them. [The featured image is of Claire with a young Martin in 1975].  She was never a competitive orienteer, and I can only find one record of her in results lists, when she accompanied Kirsten on a novice course in September 1973. (There may have been other similar occasions, but the names of participants on the ‘Novice instructional’ course were often not printed in the newsletter, and Kirsten soon started completing novice/junior courses on her own).

Claire, however, always enjoyed being part of the orienteering scene and often stepped in to lend a hand with the event organisation when the organiser was overloaded. She was a very competent organiser and became involved in other ways through the Stromlo Observatory orienteering group. In May 1974, she and Hermann organised a four-day training course for juniors in the school holidays. In May 1975 she organised the helpers for a major event at Jerrabomberra Hill. At the 1975 AGM, she joined the ACT Orienteering Association (ACTOA) Committee as Newsletter Editor, replacing David Irons who was also at Mount Stromlo. (From mid-1972 to mid-1976, the newsletter was produced using Stromlo Observatory facilities).

In 1976, Claire and Hermann were the joint organisers of the (second) Australian Club Relay Championships, which were held on Sutton Road in the north-east corner of the RMC field firing range and an adjoining part of the NSW Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve (not the reserve of the same name in Gungahlin). (Access to that area subsequently was subsequently withdrawn because of UXO hazards). I expect that Claire would have handled the administrative side of that event (entries etc.) with Hermann managing the field aspects.  Hermann and Graham Moon set the M21 and M35 courses. Hermann and Claire set the other courses.

Claire was involved on countless occasions in aspects of the organisation of ACTOA events, including (I expect) various national events held in the ACT. It would take some effort going through event programs and results to identify these specifically and it is likely that her efforts were often behind the scene and were not publicly acknowledged. She was involved also in many other peripheral activities (e.g. promotion, junior development), and was an active member of the ACTOA Committee for many years, particularly in her role of Newsletter Editor. Hermann gave her much support in that role and they officially became joint editors in 1992. Hermann became the sole Editor in 1996 and retired from that role at the end of 1998, when Ian and Anna Booth took over.  Links to the front page of significant issues have been posted at Edition #100 (edited by Claire) and Edition #250 (edited by both Claire and Hermann). 

All of Claire’s efforts were acknowledged initially when she was awarded Life Membership of ACTOA in 1986, at the same time as Hermann, John Foster and myself. She would be the only Life Member who had never been an active, competitive orienteer.  The joint contribution of Claire and Hermann was recognised further with the naming of the trophy for the ACT Orienteer of the Year competition, the Wehner Cup, and, in 1995, Claire and Hermann were named joint recipients of the Mike Cassells Award for Services to Orienteering. 

David Hogg