The family of Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Simonetta have presented the Sunraysia branch of Heartbeat Victoria with a generous donation of $1400, being funds given in lieu of flowers, at his recent funeral mass held at Mildura’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Mr Simonetta 85, was born in San Nicola Italy on December 25, 1935 to Vincenzo and Maria Simonetta and was the eldest of three children, he passed away on January 22 this year.

Mr Simonetta was a much loved member of Mildura’s Italian community and was closely involved as a volunteer with the Club Da Vinci and was also a life-member of the Mildura City Soccer Club.

In his young days he was a very active man. Most of all he loved the outdoors and enjoyed soccer, swimming, fishing and duck hunting and even boasted about swimming the Murray River just for fun.

He was involved in local soccer games when he first arrived in Australia and played socially with other ethnic groups as a young adult. In the early 1970’s, the love for soccer was rekindled. Together with those original groups of players he was instrumental in commencing the Milan Soccer Club, now called Mildura City Soccer club and the Sunraysia Soccer Association was born.

Not only was he a coach, he held positions of President, Secretary and Treasurer for Mildura City Soccer Club.

A former horticulturist, Mr Simonetta grew a variety of grapes and fruit and vegetables on his 50 acre (20 hectare) property at Merbein, working long and hard for more than five decades.

At one stage, he took the risk and pulled out the citrus trees to plant grapes. He saw fresh fruit was a growing market and became one of the first growers in the area at that time growing for local and interstate markets and he also grew vegetables all year round.

Mr Simonetta and his wife Teresa were married in 1959 and Mrs Simonetta said if restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend a funeral weren’t in place, the donation would have been far greater.

“If all of the people who would have liked to have attended were able to be there, we would have doubled the money,” Mrs Simonetta said.

Mr Simonetta’s daughter Silvana Cavallo said that they were however fortunate to have been able to have up to 450 people attend the service.

“Funerals prior and from now on, will see numbers being reduced again because of the return of some restrictions- so we were lucky,” she said.

Mrs Cavallo said that the family had decided to donate the money to an organisation related to the heart, because her father had some heart related health issues for a number of years.

“The fact that Heartbeat is local resonated with my brothers and sister and our mother, and so that led to our decision, and we are very happy that the funds will be utilised in Mildura,” she said.

Heartbeat Sunraysia was established in 1984, after Mildura resident, Mac Hudson, who had undertaken a heart by-pass operation in 1982, had the idea of setting up a branch here after learning of Heartbeat’s South Australian support group, while he was recovering in Adelaide.

Today, Heartbeat Victoria has more than 20 branches throughout the state, and the organisation has donated more than $1 million in equipment to hospitals and cardiac rehabilitation.

Heartbeat Sunraysia’s treasurer Gail Newton said that the Simonetta’s donation was a wonderful gift for the organisation and the funds will be put to good use in supporting Sunraysia’s public hospital cardiac and coronary units.

Mr Newton also said that another elderly member of the Mildura City Soccer Club had passed away recently and the club had made a donation to Heartbeat, for which they were very grateful to the club and the deceased’s family.

“Our primary objective is to act as a peer support group,” Mrs Newton said.

”A person who has suffered heart attack or may have lost a loved one due to a cardiac arrest and needs someone to talk to, we are here for them.
“Life doesn’t end after a heart attack and the person concerned doesn’t want it to end and so we are here to help.”

Mrs Newton said that some of the group’s members are partners of heart victims, some of whom are deceased others who have survived.

“My husband had a heart attack in 2008 and he survived it. I only discovered Heartbeat when I heard the ABC interviewing the president and she was saying that they may have to close the branch down because of lack of support,” she said.

“I went along to a meeting of the branch and I have been here ever since − that was eight years ago.”

For further information about Heartbeat Sunraysia people are welcome to contact the branch president Jeff Gregory on 0427 596 809 or email: sunraysiaheartbeatvictoria.org.au.
Heartbeat Victoria’s website also provides a source of information about the organisation: www.heartbeatvictoria.org.au.