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Today's quote:

Friday, January 6, 2017

Ask not for whom the bell tolls


Almost twelve months ago to the day I received this email from Merv, "Since I last wrote to you I finished up in hospital for a transfusion. I can't recommend it as a form of entertainment for in my case it started in the afternoon and finished at 0430 the following morning. Unfortunately, it appears as though I will be having a number of these before time catches up."

Time did catch up with him because within weeks Merv had passed away and with his passing another chapter of my own life had come to a close. Merv had been my boss on Bougainville Island in 1972 where he had been "Manager - Pacific Operations" of Camp Catering Services and I the office manager and accountant - see here.

Against all the odds we had wrenched a multi-million-dollar catering contract on what was then the world's largest open-cut copper mine from the incumbent contractors, B.F. Browns. They had held the contract since construction began several years earlier and were so confident we would fail that they kept their management team on the island for several more months.

Under Merv's leadership, we gave it all we got, saw off the challenge, and settled into a successful operation which became the jewel in the crown of Camp Catering Services' contracts in Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. For me, the prospect of endless routine after the adrenaline-filled first few months was daunting enough to gladly accept the promotion to Group Financial Controller in the company's head office in Sydney five months later.

Sydney didn't agree with me and I moved on to bigger and better things but Merv and I stayed in contact until we met again at Christmas 1982 when I came to Sydney on a flying visit from Saudi Arabia. At the time, I experienced great personal distress and Merv, too, had gone through years of emotional and financial upheaval which led him to find refuge in his earlier trade as cabinetmaker with the Public Works Department.

He hated the public service and he hated Sydney but he was still there when I went through the convulsions of my own homecoming in 1985. He and his wife Ruth made me welcome at their little house in Canley Vale when I didn't know another soul in the big city. Sometime in 1986 they were able to move onto an acreage at Londonderry where Merv became "The Furniture Doctor" which was both a business and a hobby.

Ruth has since moved into a nursing home and I lost touch with her but I notice that she was able to sell their former home in Londonderry sometime in October for $1,645,000. Merv would be pleased to know that Ruth is financially secure just as he would've enjoyed being a millionaire - even if only in his afterlife - after a lifetime of toil.

Rest in Peace, Merv. My life has been richer for having known you.