Sa­rina stops for the Vel­las

Town gives fit­ting farewell to Ge­orge and Frank Vella

Big Rigs - - VALE - Camp­bell Gellie Kate Dodd

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

PHOTO: MARTY STRECKER

IN MEM­ORY: A pro­ces­sion of trucks, in­clud­ing one from Vella Haulage Sa­rina, drove through the town fol­low­ing the fu­neral.

PHOTO: MARTY STRECKER

Thou­sands of peo­ple at­tended the fu­neral at St Michael’s Catholic Church in Sa­rina.

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