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Practical love

Paul Smith, Wendy Phi;pot and Jamie Smith fathers and sons memorial fundraiser
14 September 2018

Melville Smith was diagnosed with cancer in 2001 and died in 2003, shortly after his father, Cliff, was also lost to cancer. Mel left a wife and three sons, family, and hundreds of friends through his local Salvo church and brass banding.

Mel’s oldest son, Paul Smith, was bandmaster of Ringwood Salvation Army’s brass band at the time. He decided to hold a music concert to honour his father’s memory and give the proceeds to Cancer Council Victoria – 16 concerts later, more than 5,000 people have attended and more than $50,000 has been raised. The concert held on Saturday, 1 September, attended by more than 350 people, raised more than $4,800.

‘We came up with the idea in Dad’s last days,’ Paul says.

‘I find the concerts very helpful. You get on with life; it’s too easy to forget. Almost everyone in the audience is affected in some way. The beauty of the night is we stop to remember people we’ve lost, and support others who are going through cancer, through a candle lighting ceremony.’

Ringwood Band plays for Mel, and for other band members lost to cancer, including Alan Francis, Chris Creek and John Pilley.

Bandmaster Mark Hamilton, who compered the evening, thanked this year’s guest group, the Melbourne Welsh Male Choir.  ‘Guest artists over the years have included leading national and international brass composers, singers and instrumentalists,’ Mark said, ‘with artists such as Bill Broughton, Ron Prussing, David Newdick and Andy Kroenert, as well as choirs, military ensembles, and young musicians from PLC, Strathcona and Ruyton schools.’

Mel’s widow, Mrs Wendy Philpot, says the annual concerts help sustain her faith in a loving God, her loss, memories, and her new happiness with husband, William.

‘It doesn’t seem long since Mel died,” says Wendy. Each year, each concert, I reflect.

‘I wish Mel could pop down from heaven and see his kids and grandkids. My faith has got me through, but cancer is a sad business.

‘These concerts give us an opportunity to cherish memories and celebrate life and the examples we’ve lost. I feel sorry for my boys to lose their Dad, I have moved on and remarried, with many happy memories; the concerts give us a chance to do a practical act of love.’

‘The church loves these concerts,’ says Ringwood corps officer, Major Peter Walker. ‘The lighting of candles for those who have died and those who are impacted is important, allowing for tears and laughter at shared memories.

‘The concerts are a comfort and a contribution; we hope that we can beat this insidious disease, that cures will be found, lives can be cured, so people will be spared this grief.’