Thursday marked one year since the passing of Michel Nehme, and the loss still resonates deeply with his beloved family.
Michel was 76 when he died surrounded his family at St Vincent's Private Hospital.
"We are indebted to the staff there as well as at Griffith Base Hospital and in particular the oncology unit and its nurses.
"Compassionate, kind, funny, caring. Those nurses were angels. Dad had pancreatic cancer and fought hard for three years," the family said.
Michel Nehme had great loves that described his life: his wife Marie, his children and adored grandchildren, the vineyard he and his wife Marie passionately and devotedly grew from the ground up while raising a young family, his hometown of Yenda, his country Australia, his country of birth Lebanon, and the town he was raised in, Zahle.
He was born in 1942 in Zahlé, known as Lebanon's 'City of Wine and Poetry,' located about 55 kilometres east of the capital Beirut and renowned for a significant portion of Lebanon's grapes, wine, arak and poetry.
In the late 1950s, some of his sisters and brothers had already set up new lives in Australia, so when he heard on the radio at work that Australia was continuing to eagerly welcome immigrants, he made his decision.
Michel's sister agreed to sponsor his admission and in June 1965 at the age of 23, he sailed from Beirut to Port Said in Egypt, where he embarked on the Flotta Lauro liner Roma for the four-week voyage to Australia.
In 1969 Michel returned to Zahlé for a holiday, one which changed his life forever.
As dad would say: 'Life in Australia was like winning the lottery twice for the opportunities to create two amazing lifetimes, firstly in Corrimal and Wollongong, and then in Yenda'.Nehme family.
It was there he met Marie Ibrahim at a party. Michel and Marie fell in love and married in October 1969 and moved to Australia just two months later.
Michel welcomed his bride into a home he purchased close to the beach in Corrimal. The pair loved going on Sunday drives to Sydney and sightseeing around the south coast towns of Kiama and Nowra.
They also enjoyed going to the drive-in cinema, and although it was sometimes difficult for them to understand the movies, they regarded it as a great way to learn the English language.
They met people of many different cultural backgrounds through his work at BHP - one of the major employers of post-war immigrants in the Illawarra.
Becoming more acquainted with locals and their Australian neighbours, they would invite them over to enjoy home-cooked Lebanese food and barbecues, completely immersing themselves in the culture and lifestyle of 'The Lucky Country', and became naturalised Australian citizens during a ceremony at Wollongong Town Hall in 1973.
In 1971, they had their first child Saideh, and Marie recounts that becoming a father was his greatest and purest achievement. They eagerly welcomed a second child, Marlene, in August 1973.
In 1974, Michel read an article about the town of Griffith in the Riverina region of New South Wales, which was described as the state's fruit bowl.
After a visit they fell in love with the area and the landscape, which reminded them of Zahlé.
Their hearts were set on starting a farming business.
With their two daughters in tow, and Marie pregnant with their third child, they relocated to Yenda in 1976 and daughter Mechlene was born in December of that year.
They worked on vineyards for the next six years.
During that time, the youngest sister Julie was born in May 1981, with Michel calling his girls "my four aces".
They were delighted when Anthony, a son, arrived in March 1982.
In 1983, Michel and Marie bought a block of vacant land in Yenda and fulfilled their dream of owning a vineyard.
His children say they will always remember them side by side on the farm.
In the late 1980s, they made a decision they later said could have been the "biggest mistake or best blessing" of their lives: they left their golden-skinned Semillon variety of grapes on the vine longer than usual to develop Botrytis Semillon.
They became renowned as the "king and queen" of Botrytis, honoured just a few days before his death with their private label signature boutique wine called 'Michel'.
Over the years, Michel and Marie became the beloved teta and gidou to seven grandchildren: Connor, Curtis, Edie, Michael, Cassidy, Robert, and Emily.
Recently, the children had their parents' names registered on the Welcome Wall, to recognise both the life and the journey they made for themselves in Australia, and the opportunities they opened up for their five children.
"As dad would say: 'Life in Australia was like winning the lottery twice for the opportunities to create two amazing lifetimes, firstly in Corrimal and Wollongong, and then in Yenda'."
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