Not too long ago a friend, Barry Malcolm Bell, OAM, left us to pursue yet another grand adventure in the great backabeyond.
I hoped to get back down to Geelong, Australia, before he lost his struggle with the reaper. I didn’t make it.
I first met Barry when a group of us headed up to the Pennefather, north of Weipa, to help the Mapoon construct a new water system. Barry had been instrumental in organizing the financing, and supplies, through his personal contributions, and those of Rotary in Geelong. This was nothing new for Barry, as he had been visiting, volunteering and orchestrating projects, his entire life, to people in need throughout the South Pacific.
After successfully completing our stay with the Mapoon we pushed off to join the Lamalama, northeast of Coen. Rotary had helped to fund a community facility. We were invited to help put some final touches on the facility and an expanded water system that supplies the facility. The Lamalama were going to host a major gathering and wanted everything to be perfect.
When we left their “country” we left knowing we had played a small role in making everything “just right.”
I returned to the states not making it back downunda for a couple of years. When I did I was invited by Barry to stay in his home in Geelong. He wanted to be my guide, showing me everything in the area, before I jumped off for an adventure along the Great Ocean Road.
While staying with Barry and his family he received formal notice from the Queen that he was to receive the Order of Australia. It was a great moment for me to share the joy and recognition for what he had done for so many since he was a teenager. He told me he reckoned he had spent a month a year, as far back as he could remember, being somewhere reaching out a hand to those in need.
The order of Australia is an order of Chivalry established by Elizabeth ll, Queen of Australia, on 14 February 1975 “for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service.”
No one deserved the honor more than Barry.
The following comments, which seem to say it all, come from a contingent of Rotary people from Koroipita, Fiji, who attended Barry’s funeral.
“…A fine gentleman, Barry Bell from Geelong, Australia, was such a friend of Fiji, with his inspiring Donation in Kind work, especially for the development of Koroipita, the new village named after Peter Drysdale of Lautoka…”
“…over 700 people came to pay tribute to an outstanding life of commitment to family, community, overseas projects in the South Pacific, and indigenous projects within Australia…”
“… He was an intelligent but humble man with a vision that humanity can be served by helping others, sending practical gifts in containers, by working alongside strangers to put up houses, kindergartens, water projects…”
“…Vinaka vakalevu Barry for a fine life of compassion and service for others…”
Barry Malcolm Bell, OAM, 9 March 1933 – 27 January 2012
Thanks Barry, for the memories. “Ya follow?”