OPINION: Sad farewell to Maryborough's lolly man
BACK in 2008 I had been at the Chronicle less than a year and I'd met a lot of different people and covered many different stories during my short time at the paper.
But nothing could have prepared me for meeting Maryborough's Frank Petto.
I know there are many others in the area who have met this kind and gentle man and they will know exactly what I mean when I say that he was a very special person.
I was greatly saddened to read of his passing earlier this month when I was looking through the classified notices in one of the recent editions of the Chronicle; and even sadder when I saw I'd missed the opportunity to attend his funeral.
I would have liked one last opportunity to say goodbye to someone who came to mean a lot to me over the course of my time at the paper.
Some people just stick with you; Frank was one of those people.
The first time I spoke to Frank he had just lost his wife.
He had been caring for her and after she passed, he was determined to keep himself active.
Frank told me that, at the ripe old age of 77, he wanted to start a table tennis club.
So we had a charming chat and I wrote a little story that featured on page 2.
It told of his passion for the sport, which he had played since he was 12, and how he had been part of clubs when he was living in London and then New Zealand.
I wrote a few more stories after his club was up and running, but even when we weren't doing a story Frank would sometimes ring for chat.
Often I found myself picking up the phone as well just to see how he was doing.
He told me about his battle with cataracts a few years after we did the table tennis story.
He happily featured in an article on the front page of the Chronicle soon after. He was about to undergo surgery and he was the face of the cataract crisis in the region.
By then Frank was keen on dancing and he was as lively as ever.
Every year, without fail, I received a Christmas card from Frank.
Reading his kind words always made me smile.
And of course, he brought us lollies.
He used to drop into the Maryborough office when I was working there and there would be lollies for everyone.
It's fitting that his funeral notice referred to him as The Lolly Man.
It's too bad that we leave it until people have passed to say all the wonderful things we'd like to say about them.
But I have a feeling Frank knows how well regarded he was.
He'll always have a special place in my heart.