By Peter Haddow
For Pam Cox the last day serving customers at the Avonsleigh General Store was memorable.
She was inundated with flowers, chocolates, balloons, cards and other gifts from customers and work colleagues who for 18 years looked forward to her calm and warm manner behind the counter.
Always customer focused, she would make calls and keep her customers updated on the progress of any orders.
Pam would also sample chocolates the reps brought in, many times.
Pam, 62, and her husband Tony, 68, have lived in the hills for the past 20 years, the last eight in Cockatoo, but have decided on a change in lifestyle and be closer to the sea in East Gippsland.
There they hope to learn kayaking and paddle boarding and just enjoy a new environment where they hope it will be quieter.
Pam has worked under two of the many owners of the Avonsleigh General Store.
15 years under Sam and Faye Khaddage, from Lebanon where they now live, could only say kind words about her.
“She would be difficult to replace as she was very honest and focussed on her job,” Faye said.
In 2018 Rebecca Breen took over the general store as a bucket list challenge.
Pam helped Rebecca transition from a novice to making improvements in a first rate retail outlet but it was not all one way.
Rebecca helped her gift wrap, probably her only weakness.
Rebecca said Pam was “part of the furniture in the community”, but more seriously added “she will be very much missed.”
Some people may have seen Pam as being very quiet, but others know her to hold a black belt in karate and taekwondo, as a ballroom dancer and someone who played competition cricket and hockey for Moorabbin.
She was someone who packed 6kg of chocolate bullets when camping ahead of essentials like the tent, cooking materials and sleeping bags.
St Kilda football club, along with Metallica, is her great passion. During the football season she goes to St Kilda games and intends to keep it up travelling the Bairnsdale to Melbourne train line, no doubt listening to Metallica while rugged up in black, red and white colours.
While putting all her gifts and flowers into her car Pam said work was never a problem for her, even when coming back from holidays.
“I always enjoyed coming to work. The people made it so special. There was never a dull moment,” said Pam. From her new home near the sea she hopes to pick up some work in another general store or do some volunteer work.
“I like being around people and working in a shop helps you stay in contact,” Pam said.
It had been a privilege to watch children grow into adults and then to serve their children, some even had their first jobs under Pam’s guidance. Conversely there were long term customers who passed away. Working at the general store was cool but now it was time for the next chapter in her life.