14-04-1933 – 30-06-2017
Mervyn James Keith, Mick, as he was known to all, was a friend for 49 years and I have also known the family very well. He joined the Townsville Orchid Society in September of 1968. Mick had been working for the Queensland Railways as a driver but after a period he tired of the railways and sort a job closer to home, to his wife Thelma, and sons Larry and Michael.
As his mother Sarah had been growing orchids, this peeked his interest, and plans were made to open an orchid nursery. Thelma, not wishing to be left out, supported him and decided to specialize in foliage plants and opened a florist shop in Flinders St West.
At this time, they were living at 26 Gorari St. where a bush house was erected and plants and seedlings soon began to fill the space. I well remember the marvellous Saturday/ Sunday night BBQ’s and dancing under the house; they were attended by a lot of the Townsville Orchid Society members of that era.
As time went on, the orchid nursery suddenly found itself in need of extra space. It was decided to turn the business into a general nursery but specializing in orchids and foliage. The property backing onto the family home became available, which fronted on to Oonoomba Road and became the main entrance to the business.
The property underwent major reconstruction with sheds, two large bush houses and an office complex. It was also to include and stock products for the growing of orchids, foliage and general nursery plants, and a quarantine house was also included.
The addition of the quarantine facility resulted in hundreds of new, exciting and different orchids, along with foliage plants and seedling flasks arriving regularly. Sons, Larry and Michael decided to join the family business after schooling had finished. It was not long before the nursery became well known throughout Australia and overseas. Local growers also found many desirable orchid and foliage plants.
Both Mick and Thelma travelled extensively to conferences overseas- Singapore, Thailand, Scotland, North and South America and included World Orchid Conferences, Australian and local conferences
Mick spent many years on the Townsville Orchid Society committee including Chairman of Hospitality for the first ever Australian Orchid Conference held outside a capital city. He also spent 2008 and 2009 as Society Patron.
A lot of local people interested in orchid growing soon had the opportunity of learning from Mick as he instigated growing classes on a monthly Saturday afternoon at the nursery. This was extremely popular, he was a good teacher, easy going, humorous and very helpful to all concerned. Even the Society benefited as a number of people from those classes joined the Society
Around 10 years ago, both he and I were awarded Life Membership of Townsville Orchid Society for the assistance given to the Society over 40 plus years. He was easy-going, knowledgeable, had a good sense of humour and was very helpful to his friends and customers. All in all, a valued member of the Orchid Society.
He was also heavily involved with the Tropical Queensland Orchid Council where from 1988 to 1992 both he and Thelma served as President and Secretary respectively. Mick also served as Central Vice President for a number of years
Owing to the number of orchid plants he grew, it was inevitable there would be some worthy of receiving awards. It was not uncommon for him to contact me to arrange to have a plant assessed and judges contacted if the plant was worthy of consideration. Over the years he garnered a considerable number of quality and cultural awards, all being displayed with pride.
With Mick’s passing, an era has ended, an era which saw a man earn the respect of a community and the orchid world through the many deeds and assistance given to so many people.
Tribute: Ted Boon, Townsville
A donation has been made to the Australian Orchid Trust Fund by the Directors of The Australian Orchid Foundation