Sarina stops for the Vellas
Town gives fitting farewell to George and Frank Vella
THE Australian road transport community said goodbye this week to the Vella brothers.
The pair, who were well known throughout north Queensland, an integral part of Vella Haulage Sarina, and were farewelled at a funeral following a tragic workplace accident.
On the day of their funeral, every shop was closed and people stood on the kerb as a mark of respect as the long and sombre procession passed from St Michael’s Catholic Church to the cemetery.
George Vella, 48, and Frank Vella, 52, died on January 13 at George’s business while cleaning out a tanker that had been used to transport molasses the day before.
Their deaths rocked the small community, 20 minutes south of Mackay.
Remembered as caring, generous and humble men, they were bid a final farewell by about 1000 family and friends at a joint funeral service.
There was no room in the two church buildings, marquees with chairs were full and there was no standing room on the lawn stretching to the footpath.
Standing outside, many couldn’t quite hear the service over the PA system but, for an hour-and-a-half, they stood in silence.
There were tears, plenty of tears, as those who spoke mourned that these men were taken too soon.
Yvonne Ericksen had been friends with Frank for about 30 years after meeting him at Sarina business Graham Engineering. She delivered his eulogy.
“Among the many farmers and friendly faces that came in every day, Frank just stood out to me with that contagious grin and smile,” she said.
“Frank was a hard-working, caring and such a thoughtful person.”
She spoke about how Frank was the envy of all other kids because he owned the first BMX bike in town.
“Frank also enjoyed fishing, something he loved to talk about - always commenting on getting a bigger and better boat although he loved his tinny,” she said.
“He was there for the community in so many ways, which included being a volunteer rural firefighter, dropping everything if ever there was a call.”
“He helped out at the Sarina Mud Trials but had the smart idea of driving the tractor - that way you stayed clean.
“But Frank didn’t mind getting dirty at all to help others, always jumping in to get jobs done.
“One day just while going for a drive and doing some four-wheel-driving we came across a couple bogged, and guess who had no hesitation of springing into action and pulled them out.”
She said his best trait was living life to the fullest; he loved to laugh and had that contagious personality and infectious smile.
One of the few times the massive crowd was brought to laughter was when George’s best friend Dom Randazzo relived the years they would party hard.
“Some weeks we would “go to town” four times... Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Usual course of events would be to meet up at George’s farm shed Friday afternoon to talk rubbish for a few hours,” he said.
“George would dance like Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil far too often.
“Whenever his favourite song would come on, I Feel Good by James Brown, he’d do an impression of a Russian Cossack dancer and smash his knees into the floor, arms out flapping around.
“Next day get up early, cut cane all day then Saturday night do it all again.
“(But) George was first and foremost a family man.
“A man who looked after his own.
“A husband to Karen and a father to Rachel and Anthony. He loved his mother, Mary and brothers and sisters.”
They were men who prioritised their friends and their family.
In a heartbreaking moment, the brothers’ coffins were carried by their brothers, son, nephews and friends out of the church to waiting hearses.
Following were their wife, daughter, mother, sisters and nieces.
Leading the way down Central Street with a police escort was George’s glistening Vella Haulage Sarina prime mover.
Behind it was a truck from Mackay Haulage, where George worked before he started his own company.
They turned down Broad Street as the procession rolled on for 15 minutes, bringing town centre traffic to a halt.
An emotional Danny Spencer, who drove the Mackay Haulage truck, was lost for words.
He told Big Rigs he was thankful to be a part of the farewell and that the brothers would be “sadly missed”.
Allan Flanagan, who worked for Vella Transport, paid tribute to his friend and colleague George’s charity work.
“He did endless charity work for which he will never be forgotten,” he told Big Rigs.
“He’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.”
He described George as “one of those people you just met and took to” and a “hard-working family man”.
He said the entire town stopped to pay their respects during the funeral.
“The respect the boys had was enormous and I don’t think they knew it, they just wanted to help.
“No job was too big, they just did it. Everyone is going to miss him.”
Allan said he would continue to work for Vella Transport to try to keep George and Frank’s legacy alive.
Angelo Sorbello, one of the two owners of Mackay Haulage, said George was a “top fella”.
He started working for them in 1993 and learnt his skills there before buying his own truck in 2001.
He worked as a sub-contractor for the Mackay business until there wasn’t any more work for him.
Although he had his own business, he still helped out where he could.
“He was a person you could rely on and trust, and would help you when you were stuck. He will be very sadly missed.”
❝ The respect the boys had was enormous and I don’t think they knew it, they just wanted to help. — Allan Flanagan, Vella Transport
IN MEMORY: A procession of trucks, including one from Vella Haulage Sarina, drove through the town following the funeral.
Thousands of people attended the funeral at St Michael’s Catholic Church in Sarina.