They used to say that life started at 40 – but for Noel McAviney you could say he started a new life at 55, when he and his wife Gwenyth followed their daughters Lynne, Gail, Lorraine and Kathy to the north coast.
They enjoyed living first at Myocum, where Noel once again built the family home before moving to their final home in Brunswick Heads.
It was here, in his retirement, that Noel became a vital part of the community both through his and Gwenyth’s involvement in the local church and through Noel’s voluntary work at Mullumbimby’s SES (State Emergency Service).
‘When they moved here we remember them saying, “We will go to the church in Mullum, but we won’t get involved” – famous last words,’ said their daughter Lynne with a fond smile.
‘Mum and Dad became involved in Cursillo in the diocese of Grafton, then Dad became a lay minister at Mullum Anglican and Ocean Shores church. Then he kept up lay preaching in the Uniting Church in Brunswick.
‘Dad was even involved in the baptism of at least two of his grandchildren. Mum and Dad also ran the Kids Club at Mullum for many years.’
But that wasn’t enough for the tireless Noel, who also launched himself into volunteer work at the local Mullumbimby SES and worked his way up to Local Controller Byron Shire. He didn’t retire from that until he was 81 years young.
During his years of volunteering with the SES Noel was involved in everything from co-ordinating the SES response to floods and tornados to co-ordinating rescues and evacuations.
Noel also played a key role in saving properties from coastal erosion at Belongil, co-ordinating the Field Incident Command Centre that assisted in laying 30,000 sandbags.
John Farley, SES Mullumbimby unit representative, said of Noel at his farewell, ‘To say that Noel was wholly committed, devoted, loyal and dedicated as we all know, is not even close to describing the real Noel.’
‘He welcomed and mentored new members as if they were his new kin.
‘He gave his time unreservedly to the State Emergency Service.’
Vollie of the year
Noel’s commitment to the SES was recognised in 2012 when he was awarded the Volunteer of the Year at the Australia Day awards. Over his more than 25 years of service to the Byron/ Mullumbimby SES as local controller Noel also many SES awards of commendation.
Noel died peacefully in the arms of his wife on August 8 and was surrounded by his loving family.
He is survived by his four daughters, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.