Community members travelled from all over the Wimmera to farewell Stawell Gift champion and Dimboola man Bill McCann after he died last week at the age of 82.
Mr McCann won his sole Stawell gift with a time of 11.8 seconds in the 120 metre event, despite a handicap of 6 metres.
He was self-trained before the event and won 755 pounds in prize money.
His running career began with a meet in Maryborough on New Years Day in 1957, which took him to meets in Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
Mr McCann retired at the end of 1963, the same year his friend and fellow athlete Max Budde came second in the Stawell Gift.
Mr Budde said they had a great friendship and never argued once.
“We had a very good friendship, we had a lot of respect for one another,” he said.
“He first came up to me and spoke to me while I was at footy training, he knew I had pace and he and his trainer asked me to join him in preparing for the Stawell gift.
"After that we became like family.”
Mr Budde said Mr McCann continued to help him train, even after he won the event in 1960.
“This is going back a fair way, but after he won we had a great celebration, the whole town joined in, it was a great night,” he said.
“After he won he continued to help me train, especially distance work, we put in the miles together.”
Mr Budde came second in the 1963 Stawell Gift and said he had only just missed out by a “chest’s width”.
“Bill was an inspiration, he helped me and I was so close,” he said.
“They were good times, I will always remember those times we had and never forget them.”
Mr McCann joined the railways after 1960, which meant work commitments limited his training.
He had also been a member of the Dimboola Country Fire Authority brigade for 60 years and was awarded a CFA National Medal.
His other achievements were being made an honorary life member of the Dimboola Fire Brigade and being awarded the Wimmera Mail-Times and Heinz Sportsman of the Year.
Mr Budde said a lot of people travelled from “everywhere” to farewell his close friend.
“There was a very good presence at his funeral, there were a lot of people who traveled from everywhere, he touched many hearts,” he said.
“He was a very inspiring man, friend, athlete and firefighter and I am certain that his legacy will continue to live on in the Dimboola community.”
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