John Abi-Saab passes away

The man fondly known as Mr Wauchope, John Abi-Saab, will be laid to rest on Wednesday after a long illness.

Not only was John Abi-Saab the longest-serving Shire President of the Hastings, he was a business trailblazer, a visionary and one of Wauchope's true leaders.

Many of the services, facilities and clubs we enjoy today can be traced back to his dogged determination to make our town thrive - whether it be fighting to keep our hospital open, orchestrating the widening of High Street or serving as an Oxley County Council board member and Hastings councillor.

The Timbertown Tourist Project was also one of his 'babies' and he was actively involved in all stages of the development right up to the official opening by the then Governor of NSW, Sir Roden Cutler.

Mr Abi-Saab was at the forefront of the Hastings heady days in the 1960s and 70s when the timber industry was in full cry, the dairy industry was prospering and Wauchope was attracting a new style of resident: entrepreneurial, ambitious and community-conscious.

Born in Lebanon in 1932 and arriving in Australia 21 years later, he tried his hand at driving taxis, operating a market stall at Paddys Markets, selling clothes in the Snowy Mountains and running a grocery store before eventually landing in Wauchope.

In 1959, Mr Abi-Saab married Noeline Dahdah in Taree and the couple moved to Wauchope, where they owned a popular clothing business on the corner of High and Cameron streets for a number of years.

Never one to rest on his laurels, he also opened a dry cleaning business in the early 60s.

Mr Abi-Saab's entrepreneurial skills saw him become director, and later president, of the Wauchope Apex Young Men's Service Club.

In 1972, his dedication to the community was honoured with an Apex life membership award.

Always the public servant, Mr Abi-Saab actively supported all youth and senior citizens organisations, community activities, churches and charitable organisations.

He was even a patron of Wauchope Bonny Hills Surf Life Saving Club and donated a surf rescue boat to their cause.

While his commitment to support numerous organisations was unwavering, it was Mr Abi-Saab's contribution to the business and wider community that saw him shine.

He was an active member of the Wauchope Chamber of Commerce, which he served as president, and instigated action to save Wauchope District Memorial Hospital from being closed.

Thankfully, he encouraged local business people to assist in retaining nurses who were under serious threat during the 1970s.

As a foundation member of the Hastings Shire Senior Citizens Home, Mr Abi-Saab served as its treasurer until completion.

In 1970, he was elected Shire President, a position he held for an historic 10 years.

In the 1990s, when he and Noeline moved to Sydney for a short time, he continued to work in local government, serving as a Strathfield Council councillor and mayor.

Mr Abi-Saab passed away peacefully surrounded by family last Thursday, aged 83 at Emmaus Catholic Care of the Aged following a long illness.

He was the dearly beloved husband of Noeline and loving father of Susan, Helen, Anthony, Maxine and Carmen.

He was also a loving grandfather of eight grandchildren and fond brother to George and his family.

Vale John Abi-Saab.