A giant in business and in life: a tribute to John Fenech

John Fenech. (Pictures: Supplied)

Carole Levy

The Brimbank community was left saddened by the passing of John Fenech, the well-known owner of Westside Real Estate on Alfrieda Street in St Albans.

John, who was 74 years young, passed away on May 5 this year – just eight months after being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours (NETS) in the pancreas and liver.

John led a rich and fulfilled life with his wife Mary, raising two daughters: Tracy, whose partner is Milad; and Donna, who has three children with husband Shane – Addison,7, Brayden,4, and Cooper, 18 months.

John packed in plenty in 74 years. He arrived with his family in Sunshine West from the village of Mosta in Malta as a seven-year-old and grew up in the local area.

His first job was with Netafolds, makers of nut and bolts, until the company closed down and he was left wondering what was next. The door of opportunity opened when Mary spotted an ad in The Advocate (the forerunner of Brimbank Star Weekly) seeking a real estate salesman who could speak Maltese.

With nothing but his ability to relate to people (daughter Donna claims he could talk under water), a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn, John got the job and remained for the next 13 years, working his way up to branch manager.

It was at this stage that he was encouraged to launch his own real estate agency, a step he took in 1996, opening Westside Real Estate and guiding it into the very successful business it is today.

His family attributes John’s success in the real estate game to his genuine enjoyment of people, his innate honesty and trustworthiness, and his passion for helping clients find a home they love. His focus was people, not the transaction.

In life away from real estate, John was just as busy. His love of gardening was reflected in his large home vegie patch, a green oasis, where he grew “everything” but was especially known for his very large garlic.

He was a keen fisherman, too. Any chance he got, he’d head out on Port Phillip Bay with his son-in-law Shane and catch squid and whiting that Mary cooked up for the family. He also kept a caravan at Portarlington where fishing was good, and loved his time deep sea fishing off Mackay in Queensland.

Travel was another thing John really enjoyed. Apart from returning to Malta many times, John and Mary went on 10 cruises together, saw most of Australia, and travelled to Europe, Canada, the US – he especially loved San Francisco – Alaska, Japan and China.

A staunch Western Bulldogs fan, John watched from the stands as his team defied all the odds and won the 2016 Grand Final, and he got to other games as much as he could.

He was also a musician, playing the piano accordion in the Melody Makers band for many years, starting when he was just a lad. The band played at numerous weddings and other events where John’s smile was considered as infectious as his music.

While John enjoyed the trimmings of success as a businessman, his greatest passion in life was his family. His grandchildren adored their Nunnu who was very hands-on and always generous with his time and care.

His love and tireless support was a mainstay of the whole family, his legacy in his community is his example of a principled life well lived, and his presence is missed by all who knew him …

Rest in peace, John Fenech.