Vet­eran lives on in mem­o­ries

North West Telegraph - - Front Page - Tay­lar Amonini

As the news broke of the loss of Port Hed­land’s last World War II vet­eran, so did hearts across the re­gion.

Merv Stan­ton may have passed away late last month but his life and story will re­main strong in the hearts and minds of loved ones.

Find­ing him­self in Port Hed­land in 1942 af­ter en­list­ing in the army dur­ing World War II as part of the Third Aus­tralian Guer­rilla War­fare Group who fought the Ja­panese off the North West coast, Mr Stan­ton quickly made the small town home.

With sto­ries from join­ing the army, min­ing at Wit­tenoom Gorge and load­ing the first man­ganese ship at the port, his legacy will live on in more than just his life events but through his gen­eros­ity, hu­mour and wel­com­ing at­ti­tude.

Mr Stan­ton’s fond­ness for telling a story is cap­tured in the tales peo­ple share of his ad­ven­tures, ac­cord­ing to his son Grant.

“For me, my fa­ther, among other qual­i­ties, pos­sessed the great at­tributes of gen­eros­ity and a gen­uine love of peo­ple,” he said.

“His love of peo­ple was cap­tured pho­to­graph­i­cally as much as pos­si­ble. He al­ways seized the op­por­tu­nity to take a pho­to­graph of the peo­ple he met to record the mo­ment, send­ing on the pho­to­graphs as a memo­rial keep­sake.”

Re­mem­ber­ing his dad as a giv­ing man, Mr Stan­ton said his fa­ther’s in­fa­mous “muf­fin drive” had ori­gins in his child­hood.

“My friends and I would re­turn from some all-day ex­cur­sion on a week­end and he had just taken a cou­ple of loaves out of the oven for that night’s meal,” he said.

“He would ask us if we would like some and, be­ing hun­gry from the day’s ac­tiv­i­ties, of course we ac­cepted and ate the lot. It didn’t bother him that he had none left for him­self; the plea­sure was in the giv­ing.”

Not one to just stay as “the man with the cam­era” at com­mu­nity events, Mr Stan­ton was al­ways will­ing to smile for the cam­era too and, in re­cent years, was of­ten pho­tographed with ar­guably his best friend, neigh­bour, Ge­orgie Rose.

“I moved in and went next door to in­tro­duce my­self and one day I asked if he wanted to go out for cof­fee and it just be­came our rit­ual — ev­ery Satur­day morn­ing,” she said.

“He was al­ways do­ing some­thing for some­one else, I’d come home from work and there’d be fresh bread at the front door, or he’d be out the back wa­ter­ing plants.”

From Aus­tralia Day pho­tos with the girls, to his muf­fin drive, Mr Stan­ton was full of sto­ries and tra­di­tions.

“I’d say some­thing that was truly Merv was the birdy bush flower of Port Hed­land,” Ms Rose said.

“He’d col­lect them, dry them and paint them. Ev­ery let­ter he sent — cor­re­spon­dence he’d call them — he’d put them at the top of the let­ter. Even if he bought some­thing over, he’d stick one to them.”

Part of the RSL com­mu­nity in Port Hed­land since his time in war, the Town’s sub-branch sec­re­tary Robyn Mid­dle­ton said there was too much to Mr Stan­ton to de­scribe him in just one word.

“If he could give his time, he gave it — that’s just what he was like in ev­ery­thing he did,” she said.

”He made ev­ery­one feel spe­cial when he was telling a story. He wasn’t a triv­ial per­son, it was al­ways some­thing to be re­mem­bered when he talked to you.”

A proud soldier, Mrs Mid­dle­ton said Mr Stan­ton vol­un­teered and do­nated to the RSL from the mo­ment he re­tired un­til he was un­able to drive.

“He was re­ally proud to be a part of those sorts of things, to wear his medals and slouch hat,” she said.

“Just the gen­eros­ity of his spirit and his want to give knowl­edge. There was never any show-off­ness about him, it was just ‘this is what I’ve done, this is what it’s about’.”

While Mr Stan­ton’s war his­tory will re­main in the South Hed­land An­zac House through his dona­tions, his gen­tle side will re­main en­shrined in Merv’s Look­out.

Ini­tially cre­ated as his own per­sonal re­treat in mem­ory of his for­mer army unit, the gar­den oa­sis quickly be­came her­itage listed in 2007 and the back­drop to many

photo mo­ments and mem­o­ries.

“When you went to his house for the first time, he’d take you across the road for a photo,” Ms Rose rem­i­nisced.

“Then you’d be given the photo with the date and place writ­ten on the back of it.”

While he will never be for­got­ten, and his life con­tin­ues on in mem­o­ries and yarns, Merv Stan­ton will be laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Betty, on Novem­ber 18.

The ser­vice will be­gin at 4pm and peo­ple are in­vited to re­turn to An­zac House on Hed­ditch Street in South Hed­land for a cel­e­bra­tion of Merv’s life.

Merv and Betty Stan­ton in their later years.

A young Merv Stan­ton dur­ing a box­ing match at Gratwick Hall in 1953.

Merv Stan­ton and his friend “Harry” in 1950.

Merv in uni­form dur­ing WW II.

The young cou­ple.

Merv Stan­ton (far left) as part of the Third Aus­tralian Guerilla War­fare Group in the Kim­ber­ley.

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