Margaret River locals pay tribute to community stalwart

Dearly missed: Steve Black (left) stirring the pots at the Margaret River Soupie alongside Dave Seegar. Photo: MRCC
Dearly missed: Steve Black (left) stirring the pots at the Margaret River Soupie alongside Dave Seegar. Photo: MRCC

A familiar face at the door to Soupie for the last five years, Steve Black died from cancer in hospital last week.

Steve moved to Margaret River in 2015 and steadily became involved in the community, sharing the wisdom and skills of his varied life experiences and lending a helping hand to many.

"A man of achievement and previous wealth, he arrived in Margaret River in 2015, afoot, from Perth," said friend and Soupie coordinator, Dave Seegar.

It goes without saying that, despite his loathing of coriander, he will forever remain a particularly close and special friend to us all.

Dave Seegar

"With nothing to his name, no money, no possessions, no identity, he found and settled into his new life.

"Clever and resourceful, but with no official income whatsoever, living in a small caravan, he supported himself by doing small jobs for small reward.

"He'd save $2 a week so that he could buy himself a new pair of shoes at the end of the year, never asking for any financial assistance, and usually refusing it when it was offered."

In 2015, Steve co-founded Just Home Margaret River and was Deputy Chair for several years.

Just Home Chairperson Naomi Godden described how Steve powerfully and publicly shared his own story of homelessness in Margaret River to build community compassion around the issue.

"He believed that everyone has the right to a secure home. He actively advocated for community-led homelessness services and more social housing in AMR," said Ms Godden.

"Steve was a generous and outspoken leader. He had a strong sense of social justice and he cared deeply about our community. He was dependable, committed and courageous. Just Home will deeply miss Steve."

Steve was also a familiar face at the Margaret River Community Centre (MRCC). Centre Manager, Lydell Huntly recalls Steve's commitment.

"He was always willing to lend a hand but was fiercely independent, especially as he journeyed between Margaret River and Perth for his treatments over the last 2 years," she said.

"Steve always had a story to relate to your questions, he liked to tell a tale! He was highly organised, a thorough researcher and definitely a details-person."

Mr Seegar said Steve's initial Soupie visits quickly evolved to him being an evening stalwart, organising volunteers and takings at the door.

It was not long before he was collecting statistics and adding efficiencies to the twice-weekly operation, such as the ticketing system which improved the speed of service and saw a jump in proceeds.

"He calculated ways to reduce costs and came up with things like sourcing ginger plants so we can grow the spice in our kitchen garden at the Centre and save on the most expensive of our ingredients," he said.

"He changed our lives dramatically, and took the Soupie to places it would never have gone to without him.

"Although bravely, and often humorously, acknowledging that his remaining days were numbered, he didn't have time for dying, there was always far too much to be done.

"He was an intimate part of our lives for the six years he was with us, and he reminded us frequently that those six years were the happiest years of his life.

"It goes without saying that, despite his loathing of coriander, he will forever remain a particularly close and special friend to us all.

Steve was recently heard saying the best things that had happened in his life were the birth of his kids, and moving to Margaret River.

Steve Black's contributions to the community were many and varied. He will be missed.

With thanks to Alison McKenzie and the MRCC.