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    Posted July 25, 2014 by
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    Remembering those on Flight MH17

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    MH17 victims

     

    Official Press Release          Though Mary and Gerry Menke’s lives may have been tragically cut short in the MH17 disaster, they will be remembered by everyone who knew them for the vivacity and spirit with which they lived.    Mary and Gerry were many things to many people: award winning business owners, adventurous world travelers, and active members of the Mallacoota community. They were inseparable partners in everything they did, loyal friends, deeply loving siblings and children, devoted parents to four children and doting grandparents to five grandsons. Their loss is felt as extensively as it is deeply.              Gerry Menke was born in Hilversum, Netherlands, in 1944. One of six siblings who immigrated to Australia in 1953, Gerry, then 13, took to Australia like a duck to water becoming an avid spear fisherman and waterman. His adventures took him from their family home in Sydney down the coast where he eventually settled in Mallacoota, Victoria. His interest in the ocean led to a successful and lifelong career in the burgeoning abalone industry in which he was a diver for 35 years before focusing his efforts on their flourishing pearl business. He met Mary Bignell, from rural Christchurch, New Zealand, at the local pub where she was working during an extended holiday around Australia. She canceled her travel plans and they rarely spent a day apart from that moment further.                After a whirlwind romance, the two were married in Mary’s home country of New Zealand where their adventure together began in earnest. The couple traveled extensively around the world – exploring the African wilderness, diving with whale sharks off Ningaloo, and traversing the jungles of Borneo, only to name a few.                However, their heart was in their home in Mallacoota. They were active in the community in many organized groups and clubs including the soccer club, sports club, golf club, kinder, school, SES, Abalone Fisherman’s Co-op, and the pony club. Mary was active in the local music scene including teaching piano and playing for the kinder kids.                In recent years, the pair’s interest in the abalone industry had progressed into a wild abalone pearl cultivating business unique in Australia. The fledgling family business, MAPA Pearls, had recently received a local business award and been the focus of an upcoming episode of ‘Coast.’                Mary was a woman as colorful in spirit as she was in appearance. Her easy smile and laugh were as bright as the shock of blonde curls piled on her head. Always the center of attention and the life of the party, you could hear her coming long before you could see her. Her Ger on the other hand, could often be seen sitting quietly to the side with a contented grin on his face and laughter in his eyes. Though he spoke significantly less than his adored wife, everyone would stop what the

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