John Michael was born on the 1st November 1939 in the London Hospital in Whitechapel
At school he was a good all-rounder, rather than an outstanding student. He played cricket and rugby for the school; he was a strong distance swimmer; he sang in the school choir and took a leading part in school amateur dramatics.
On leaving school he won a place at Liverpool University to read economics, but turned it down in favour of joining Unilever as a management trainee. And it was there, that he began to acquire the skills which would assist him to survive later on in his career in the challenging world of Asia.
In the early 1960’s he married Gayle Palmer & in 1967 son Philip was born.
Following an invitation from his father-in-law Michael joined the firm of Albert Plaut – a timber import and distribution agency. He was promptly sent to Bordeaux, France to learn the basics of ply-wood manufacturing & to improve his limited school French. To the end of his life he retained the ability to speak very good French, but always with a Bordeaux accent.
Following several years of working for Plaut’s and establishing contacts in both Europe and the USA he was head-hunted by the Champion Corporation of America. And so began an international adventure with an initial posting to Taiwan!
In 1970 Michael started up a regional purchasing and quality assurance function for Champion, to supply their mills in Europe and North America with appropriate timber and boards. This involved travelling on a monthly basis to South Korea and elsewhere, establishing important contacts in the industry which he personally benefitted from later. The Taipei years forged many enduring friendships. During 1971 daughter Marika joined the family.
Michael continued playing rugby in Taiwan for a team of ex-pats collectively called ‘The Outsiders’. He continued with cricket too although he nearly provoked an international dispute with the American community when it transpired that the playing fields they wanted to reschedule a rained-out Independence Day onto had been previously booked by his cricket club. Perhaps it was his wily handling of this diplomatic incident that enabled him to be elected as the first non-American President of the Taipei American Club.
In 1979 the family were relocated to Manila, but at the close of the 2 year contract in the Philippines, and having trained local people both in Taiwan & the Philippines, to run the local agencies, work for the Americans came to an end. The redundancy caused great upheaval to family life, eventually resulting in divorce.
Following the redundancy he decided that Singapore would be a practical place to set up his own company. Michael worked hard to assemble an impressive range of international clients. From 1982, he was involved in the launch of the new ‘Asian Timber’ journal and he became a very prolific Consultant Editor and contributor. He also undertook other activities which included chairing Asian based conferences and attending industry events.
In 1987 having fare-welled a good Taiwanese friend at Changi Airport, Michael met (his future wife) Margaret struggling with a luggage trolley and an escalator. Despite this inauspicious start a long distance friendship blossomed and they eventually married in Windsor, NSW in March 1989.
Having lived a third of his life in Asia he had a great affinity to that part of the world, so it was with some reluctance that the 1993 decision was made to move to Australia so Margaret could be closer to support her parents. Thus the third part of Michael’s life commenced. Domiciled in Windsor, Michael commuted to Asia for work. His regular trips were a source of great pleasure for both work & friendship and he continued this pattern of working life until, in 2011, he found the pollution in China more than he was physically able to tolerate.
In the year 2000 he became a proud Australian citizen and with this act he began to play a role in efforts to improve the Hawkesbury area. His contribution was significant, firstly as the writer of the proposal to Hawkesbury City Council for an art gallery & subsequently planning much of the strategy for this to become a reality. He felt justifiably satisfied when the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery opened June 25th 2005.
He held the position of Vice-President & subsequently President of The Friends of the Hawkesbury art community & Regional Gallery Inc for nine years. However at their August 2014 Annual General Meeting he resigned the position owing to his ill health.
The upgrading of the Richmond War Memorial in 2007 was a further project he was deeply involved in. Leading a team of volunteers, over 800 names of service personnel were researched in the National Archives Canberra for possible inclusion on the new plinths erected to commemorate those who lost their lives or fought in the Second World War, Korea, Malaysia or Vietnam.
A busy and sometimes stressful life took its toll, however. Michael had a heart attack in 1987 a stroke in 2002 and a further stroke in 2008. He was diagnosed with an aggressive lung cancer in 2013 and despite gruelling treatment, suffered a series of chest infections over a period of 6 months that hospitalized him for almost half of that time. In the end his heart could not cope any more, and he passed away peacefully on August 24th 2014.
Having a gregarious personality Michael made many, many friends around the world. He is sadly missed by his family and friends but those that gathered at his funeral felt grateful that he did not live to suffer any more. Family was, for him the most important focus of his life and, given the distance, he worked hard to keep in touch with everyone regularly.
During his almost 75 years he lived life to the full, experiencing more than many. Those he touched remember his kindness, his smile, his humour. He was living proof that ‘no man is an island’ – in embracing as much and as many as he did, he enriched us all.
August, 30th 2014
Born: 1 Nov 1939, London England
Married: 1st: 8 Sep 1962, Wimbledon, England
Married: 27th March 1989 Windsor, NSW, Australia
Died: 24 August 2014, Windsor NSW, Australia