Walter Mikac’s Message of Hope
The story of an Australian father’s life transformed by tragedy and despair, and by love and courage
Iremember the days when I was Walter Mikac, the pharmacist, involved in amateur theatre productions, who sat on the school council and golfed on Wednesdays, whose wife and children were part of a small community in an idyllic setting in Tasmania.
I’m alone these days. I sold our house and my pharmacy. I have bought another house in Melbourne and I am trying to start another life. But the one thing I don’t have is the thing I want most. My family: Nanette, the wonderful woman who shared 13 years of my life, and my two extraordinary children, Alannah, 6, and Madeline, 3.
I’ll never forget the day I first saw Nanette. I was working at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne. Her curly brown ringlets, blue eyes and smile were captivating. At the time I was a trainee pharmacist, she was a nurse. Soon we were going out. I told my parents only a year before that I would never marry. But this girl was everything I wanted and more. Two years later we did marry.
Our early years together were full of love and fun. Our daughter, Alannah Louise Mikac, entered the world on August 28, 1989. She was such a joy. As first-timers, we blundered our way through parenthood.
Madeline Grace was born on August 15, 1992. Christmas 1992 was our first as a family of four and I couldn’t imagine being happier.
In February 1994, we visited Netty’s parents, Keith and Grace Moulton, in White Beach, Tasmania. It was while we were sitting on their verandah overlooking the beach that Grace uttered the words that changed our lives for ever: “Walter, you should think about starting a pharmacy down here. We really need one.”
I momentarily pictured myself standing behind the counter of my own pharmacy. It was alluring, and Grace’s words set me into action.
After submitting an application for an approval, we began imagining what our life in Tasmania might be like. The 60-hour weeks I worked would be scaled back, leaving time I could spend taking my girls to the beach, gardening or simply being around to watch them grow up.
The day in April the government letter that was to determine our fate arrived, I had come home tired. As soon as I flopped down on a bed the girls catapulted onto my stomach. “Daddy! I wuv you,” Alannah said. “You’re the best daddy in the world.” This demonstration of love and energy swept away tiredness. Then we opened the letter to discover our application to open our own pharmacy had been approved. More pandemonium broke out.
Three months later, we left Melbourne. We would open our pharmacy in Nubeena, a little village on the Tasman Peninsula about an hour-and-ahalf’s drive southeast of Hobart.
I saw the building that was to