Remembering Valla Beach's beloved Mel Best

Mel 'Perce' Best had a wonderful and fulfilling life.

Born on March 9, 1939 to George and Irene in Hammersmith England, Mel didn't meet his father until the age of seven or eight, as George was fighting in World War Two.

Being an only child Mel had an easy time of it, with his mother walking his bike to his school in the afternoon so he could ride home! This type of behaviour was reportedly repeated time and again.

Soon after George's return, Dad's two sisters Yvonne and Elaine arrived on the scene. The family was now complete.

Mel completed junior and secondary schools in Heston and then moved to Southall at age 14, where he went to a technical college and graduated in commerce. The family then moved again, this time to High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

At 17 Mel started work at Harrison and Sons, a stamp printing company. Whilst working there he met his future wife, Patricia Ann. Unfortunately the romance was put on hold due to Mel's National Service call-up when he turned 18 ... two years from 1958.

Being Mel, he made sure he asked Patricia to marry him before he left.This was the beginning of his ability to secure deals!

His position whilst serving was in the military police. He graduated as a Lance Corporal (well aware of the wage advantage) and volunteered to go to Singapore for a year.

Upon returning to England in 1960, Mel returned to civilian life and Harrisons, where he was a costing clerk and estimator.

Mel and Patriciamarried in 1961 and Patricia planted the seeds for a move to Australia for a 'couple' of years ... little did they know the future would see them naturalised as Aussies.

Mels' parents had already migrated to Australia, so the couple set sail as £10 poms in January 1963, arriving in Australia six weeks later at Pyrmont. Their first meal after docking was at the Parramatta RSL, of which Mel remained a member for the rest of his life.

It didn't take long for the new arrivals to fall in love with this great country. They lived with Mel's parents in Parramatta for two years, while saving for a house. They then bought and built on the block behind them for a whopping 9000 pounds!

Things apparently were going pretty well with first son Mark arriving in 1966 and then Scott in 1969.

Mel quickly found work at a flexible packaging company in Chatswood, where he stayed for a couple of years before moving to Interpak, where he stayed for 19 years. He was then poached by Mead to look after the very important CUB (Carlton United Breweries) and Coca Cola accounts.

The job involved lots of travel and saw Mel work his way up to become highly regarded in the packaging industry. It was the high flying 70s and 80s and Mel was renowned for long lunches and many extravagant dinner parties, which he and Patricia hosted.

By 1971 the little house in Parramatta was getting too small, Scott was starting to grow! The search was on and a new house was found in Baulkham Hills where the family unit continued to prosper.

Many special and lifelong friendships were formed with Mel supporting his sons in their sporting endeavours, including becoming the manager of Scott's soccer team ... this role also entailed looking after the parents and tales swirl of some wild end-of-season trips to the Hunter Valley!

Mark and Scott say Mel was always there to support them in all their endeavours, good or bad ... apparently being told on more than one occasion "Don't tell your mother!"

No matter how hard Mel worked, he always made sure the family enjoyed an annual holiday away. Happy times in Forster, Port Macquarie and later the Gold Coast were often shared with family and friends.

A weekly flutter on the ponies with his mate Warren aka Clarence was a favourite pass-time - the pair would run a tin and every couple of months go out on the winnings. Mel also enjoyed following the Fulham Football Club and was ecstatic when they made the premier league.

Music tastes - well where do we start? Mel enjoyed the classic rock of the 50s to the 70s , then something happened. Someone gave him a Carly Simon album and that was it - he was obsessed! The collection just kept growing and being played. It got to the point where whenever those in the know (ie: his family) hopped in his car, the first thing they'd do was eject the cassette or disc. Amazing how far a CD travels when thrown from a car window at 100kph!

Mel retired in 2007 ... or did he? The couple wanted to be close to their boys and had to choose between Mt Tambourine with Scott or Valla Beach with Mark. As Mark puts it: "Guess who drew the short straw?"

Having purchased the land at Valla Beach and built their new home, it took Mel and Patricia no time at all to settle in.

Patricia had her porcelain hobbies and Mel developed a loved of gardening and exploring the area - photography followed.

Missing more human contact, he joined a fledgling community group called the Valla Beach Community Association.

Here Mel felt completely at home and excelled, helping the group make changes to the area and eventually becoming its secretary. He loved the camaraderie of the group and considered them all close friends.

Management skills developed during his working life came in handy to help sell projects to the committee and the council, something he really enjoyed.

It got to a point where people thought Mel had a special hotline to the general manager and Mayor - he'd ring and suddenly things happened ... he was the unofficial mayor of Valla Beach, resigning only recently due to his ill health.

Despite his health problems over the last 15 months, Mel never complained and was always positive, believing he would still be with us for another six months ... but now he is at peace and with Patricia.

Mark and Scott say they will cherish all the great memories of times shared, as will Mel's three grand children and four (and a half) great grand children.

Dear Mel - you will be missed by all but your memory lives on.