JOE ZAHRA was born in Mdina, Malta, on 8 September, 1938. In 1962 he met Mary (nee Xuereb, late) and they were married in Mdina on 29 April of the same year. He has two children, Charles and Marika, who is married with three children, Stephan, Anika and Eliza.
Being from a large family after the Second World War where life was hard, Joe had to work before finishing school at the age of 14 to help his family. In Malta he worked with building contractors and was a master a few trades, mainly plumbing, electrical, and rendering, painting and decorating.
As life was tough in Malta during the sixties and early seventies, Joe decided to follow his brother Paul to Australia in search of a better life for him and his young family. He departed from Malta on a Qantas flight and arrived in Australia on 21 September 1972.
He started working as a machine operator with Commercial Minerals, and would go on to become a forklift driver and a storeman and packer. He worked for the same company for 31 years where he retired in 2003.
Joe’s interest in music and bands came naturally through his youth as his father used to play the clarinet and his brother the trumpet with L’Isle Adam and St Joseph band clubs in Rabat, Malta. Another brother of his also used to play the guitar and the mouth organ with a group.
His interest continued when he arrived in Australia. When he heard about our band he started following it and, in 1982, he became and Associate Member. He developed a close relationship with (the late) Maestro Joe Darmanin and has been working and helping behind the scenes ever since.
His daughter Marika followed her father’s interest in music and as a seven-year-old she began her studies. At that young age, with her small hands and fingers, she had some problems playing the clarinet – so much so that Mro Darmanin had to make some alterations to the instrument.
At about 11 she became a member of the band and she was a very keen and active member. Mro Darmanin placed her in the role of first clarinet and she was a member of the committee for a couple of years.
In the meantime Marika met Mrs Douglas – a very good piano player – who, finding out about Marika’s talents, created a small ensemble together with some other young musicians. For quite a while, they would put on shows at the Opera House every Saturday.
As everyone can see, this quiet achiever carried his family’s cultural traditions with him here to Australia. His involvement in the band instils in him a sense of pride that he is helping keep alive this great tradition of ours.
He enjoys the social aspects of the band and looks forward to Monday nights. He’s there early with a couple of his mates to prepare the chairs and distribute the music books to the band members, as well as catching up with his long-time friends for a yarn and a cup of tea while they listen to the band practicing some marches.
On Festa Sundays Joseph proudly puts on his uniform and looks forward to marching with the band. Anzac Day is another special day on the band calendar where Joseph marches with pride under the Australian and Maltese flags knowing that the band is being put on show across Australia.
I have to say without hesitation that Joe is a real quiet achiever, working continuously behind the scenes with that natural smile of his. He’s a clear example for all who have voluntary work in their heart and it’s a pity that nowadays gentlemen like him are really hard to find.