Fond farewell for true Elders legend

By Wendy Gould
February 20 2022 - 2:00am
Retiring Elders WA livestock sales manager Tom Marron (left) and his wife Sandra, whom he met while working in Meekatharra, was farewelled by Elders State general manager Nick Fazekas.

THE outstanding contribution of Elders employee of 52 years, Tom Marron, was recognised at a farewell retirement function at Nedlands Golf Club last week.

Mr Marron was joined by his wife Sandra, whom he met while working in his first posting with the company at Meekatharra, and a select group of current and former staff members.

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Elders State general manager Nick Fazekas paid glowing tribute to him, saying the Tom Marron brand was second to none.

"It's pretty amazing to note that Elders is 182-years-old this year and Tom has contributed to the company for almost 30 per cent of that time," Mr Fazekas said.

"For him it was not just a job but a lifestyle.

"He is a true gentleman and his knowledge, passion and storytelling will be greatly missed.

"The people in this room will testify to that.

"It's sad that more of our staff could not be here but as part of our COVID-19 strategy we have split our staff into two separate working teams which have to remain segregated."

Mr Fazekas then recounted a 'quick version' of the life and times of the man they call Tommy, helped with plenty of interjection and jokes from the special guest himself.

The Tom Marron Elders story began on January 12, 1970, when he was 18-years-old and like so many of his time, it was as a junior stockman at the Midland Saleyards.

Elders WA livestock sales manager Tom Marron with the caricature presented to him on his retirement from the company after 52 years.

His days began at about 5am and rarely finished before 7pm, with lunch on the run.

After completing his training, he was posted to Meekatharra where Mr Marron said it was all big hats and big country.

"I arrived and went straight out to start loading the cattle onto the trains to head to the southern sales," Mr Marron said.

He spent his time roaming the north, as far south as Cashmere Downs, as far north as Marble Bar and as far east as you could go and all in a trusty Holden Kingswood, with the radio removed as was company policy at the time.

"No Prados back then," Mr Marron said.

Crossing rivers, the Murchison and Gascoyne mostly, entailed checking the water level first by foot, then if it seemed OK he would remove the fanbelt or put a hessian bag over the engine and head through.

"You had to be cautious or your car would end up in Carnarvon," he said.

"There were great times visiting the stations and yes Meeka' is where I met Sandra."

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She was the secretary at the shire offices and their first two boys were born there 12 months apart.

"Don't let anyone tell you you can't get pregnant when you're breastfeeding," Mr Marron quipped.

Former Elders staff members Bruce McCosh (left), Mt Pleasant and Gary Preston, Geraldton, joined with current staff members, commercial cattle manager Michael Longford, Bunbury, who will replace Mr Marron and administration officer Riley Jones, Belmont.

From Meekatharra, Mr Marron was transferred to Beverley, which he said was a bit of a culture shock after the dusty, laid back north.

Next, in September 1976, it was off to Miling as the officer in charge of a sub-branch of Moora.

"I enjoyed that - good spot, good people, great time," he said.

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Two years later and Munglinup followed.

"When I told Sandra, she asked 'where is that?' and I said "I don't know'," Mr Marron said.

"We went to the local service station and bought a map and it wasn't even marked on there, so we thought this'll be good."

But it proved a busy role in what was a livestock and wool rich area.

In October 1979, Mr Marron was sent to Gnowangerup to take up the head stockman role for three years, followed by seven years as branch manager at York and then branch manager at Wongan Hills.

A bit of stability came with a move to Albany as branch manager in April 1990, where he would remain for 22 years, although the family did move house five times.

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He recalls one of the most challenging of his managerial duties was navigating the Elders Burnett Moore days when the cattle and pig business and its associated staff were hived off into the sideline company.

Western Ag director James Cornish (left), West Perth, with Elders State marketing business partner WA Tatum Patteson and Elders Midland and Muchea branch manager Michael Sala Tenna.

During his time based on the South Coast, Mr Marron was appointed the regional manager for branches across the Great Southern and in 2012 was asked by former State manager James Cornish to step into the State livestock manager role.

"James also mentioned they were struggling to fill the commercial sheep manager and commercial cattle manager positions at the time, so in typical Tom style, he took on the huge task of three roles for 12 months to 'help out'," Mr Fazekas said.

"In 2013, he took up the role he is in today as livestock sales manager, heading up our cattle business throughout the State.

"In recognition of Tom's exemplary demonstration of the Elders values, he was awarded the first ever Thomas Elder Award in 2011 by the CEO at the time, Malcolm Jackman.

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"And from then on, he became known as Thomas 'Elder' Marron.

"He has been a great teacher to our younger staff members and an all-round good bloke.

"I would like to personally thank Tom for his lifetime contribution and loyalty to Elders and for always living and breathing the One Elders values," Mr Fazekas said.

Elders staff at the farewell function included Williams agent Graeme Alexander (left), State livestock and wool manager Dean Hubbard and commercial sheep manager Mike Curnick.

Elders State livestock and wool manager Dean Hubbard also acknowledged Mr Marron's outstanding contribution to the pink shirt brigade.

"I first met Tom in 1979 in Gnowangerup (Goanna-rup as he called it) when I was a 17-year-old on P plates," Mr Hubbard said.

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"I was with Wesfarmers then and we had a really strong business but it didn't take long for Tom and Mark Screaigh, who was working with him at the time, to help us get that down to a much more manageable level.

"More recently in my Bruce Rock/Narembeen days, Tom would purchase a lot of majority Wheatbelt lambs for his South Coast clients.

"As livestock manager, Tom provided our livestock network and leadership team with a great deal of strong, assured and very wise guidance."

"Don't fight city hall," (the establishment) he would often tell us, Mr Hubbard said.

He was a great mentor and role model to me and to our entire network and I know also to many in this room this evening.

Sharing a story or two on their time spent working with Mr Marron were former Elders staff members Stuart Macaulay (left) and Ian White (right), both Melville, with Elders Gnowangerup agent Richard Poulish.

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"He is to Elders like ice is to water,'' Mr Hubbard said.

"As we can all attest to, he has that uncanny knack of making whoever he is engaging with, be it a client, buyer, truck driver, processor or staff colleague, feel that they are the most important person in the conversation.

"I jotted down a few words that spring to mind when I think of him and it's a long list - hardworking, integral, honest, loyal, humble, unassuming, diligent, kind, diplomatic, patient and, above all, such a great sense of humour."

Mr Hubbard said he would greatly miss Mr Marron's counsel and guidance.

But his admiration and respect for the 52-year Elders veteran did not extend to refraining from telling a few last jokes about him.

Elders' Margaret River agent Alec Williams (left), Dean Ryan, Central Stockcare, Bullsbrook and Roger Fris, Elders Wagin.

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In closing, Mr Marron said he felt very humbled by the kind words and it had been a special journey since his start at the Midland Saleyards, and later, Meekatharra.

"I think I have been part of the best of times and the worst of times with Elders," Mr Marron said.

"When I started we had real clout and integrity as a business, the big E as (colleague) Ross Coole used to call it.

"But there have also been some tougher times."

Mr Marron expressed personal thanks to Elders from him and his family for "helping us through some big family hurdles".

"I really appreciate that, our whole family does," he said.

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"Thanks to all who I've worked with, especially in the branches, where some such as Ray Norman are no longer with us and to our staff SSOs, who are the backbone of our branches," Mr Marron said.

Spot the odd mowe out. Staff at Elders Midland branch donned fake moustaches to farewell their very special colleague, Mr Moustache himself Tom Marron, after more than five decades with the company at a recent in-house lunch at the branch.

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