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Reliving glory days on an epic adventure down memory lane

Mick Szabo's Chrysler Valiant at Rob's Restos

A Queenslander who doctors gave just 12 months to live refuses to go quietly and insists on living every moment he has left to the fullest.

A Gold Coast man might be completely immobile but this 77-year-old will not take his condition lying down. Although Mick Szabo (pictured far right) was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008 and became bed-ridden in 2017, he continues to tick off his growing bucket list of places to go and people to meet. His General Practitioner only gave him 12 months to live back in 2018 but he still managed to outlive that prognosis by more than five years.

Not-for-profit Technology for Ageing and Disability Queensland helped Mick import a state-of-the-art Permobil M3 Corpus power tilt wheelchair from the United States that lets him travel in a reclined position on wheelchair accessible taxis and other government subsidised transport providers.

His travels took him to Surfers Paradise beach where he went down to the sand and sunbathed. He then visited the Sanctuary Cove marina where he checked out multimillion dollar yachts before having all-you-can-eat chocolate at the Harbour Town Lindt store. He later put on his 1950s and 1960s groove at the Cooly Rocks On festival and even attended council’s Australia Day fireworks display at Evandale Parklands.

After hearing of Mick’s adventure and desire to revisit his former workplace at the Sea World amusement park for the first time in 35 years, Village Roadshow Theme Parks was more than happy to grant his wish.

Mick began preparing for his epic day three years earlier when he sent his 1970 Chrysler Valiant classic car off to Rob’s Restos for restoration. The rusty sedan needed sandblasting, rust-proofing in epoxy primer and another coat of sound deadening stone guard before a complete respray in new mercury silver paint with coarse metallic flakes that sparkle in sunlight. Every part was then painstakingly reassembled.

Mick and his family members attended the key handover in-person for the ride back to Sea World. Owner Rob Fairbairn (pictured far left) said seeing his work reach completion was the “most satisfying” part of his job, admitting he was not afraid of taking on jobs that other workshops could not finish.

The old Chrysler engine delightfully roared back to life after Mick switched the ignition on. The car turned a lot of heads throughout its maiden cruise. Some motorists even showed their approval by giving a thumbs up.

Chrysler Valiant at Sea World
Chrysler Valiant outside Sea World

The journey brought back many fond memories, especially when Mick parked his Valiant in the Sea World parking lot – just like the good old days when he drove the car to every shift.

Sea World employees warmly welcomed Mick back with free entry. He immediately recognised Sea World Lake which, in his time, used to have a very popular pirate ship ride. The Seal Theatre pool was about three times larger than his last visit back in 1989. The dolphin affinity show venue was also much bigger than he remembered.

Sea World seal theatre
Sea World seal theatre
Sea World dolphins
Sea World dolphins

Mick’s trip down memory lane concluded with a short wheelchair accessible ride across the former monorail station to Sea World Resort. Shortly after he ordered a lemonade at the lobby bar, and told the bartender that he was one of the resort’s very first managers, two duty managers came over to speak with him. Seybon thanked Mick for his service and offered him a drink on the house. Since he already ordered a lemonade Seybon left and quickly returned with a free Sea World towel, baseball cap and large dolphin toy.

Mick felt overwhelmed by his former employer’s kindness, felt a bit speechless then thanked Seybon and his colleagues for giving him a very big welcome. Mick mentioned that the resort’s amenities had expanded a lot since he clocked off more than 35 years ago. Back then the resort pool was a fraction of the present size, garden beds only had seedling plants and Shoreline buffet had still not been expanded. Seybon thanked Mick for sharing his stories and promised to pass them onto all resort staff.

Mick Szabo and Seybon Rodrigues
Mick Szabo and Seybon Rodrigues

When Mick finally returned home after a very memorable day aged care workers kept complimenting him on his classic car. Although he felt tired he was in such a good mood that he started trying on different hats and checking himself out in his iPad mirror app.

Mick’s big adventure helped him return to his roots, feel appreciated by his successors and find valiance at a point in life that could arguably seem rather bleak with little to no hope.

“To be continued,” Mick said with a soft chuckle.

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Life Begins At Editor

Life Begins At Magazine is the ultimate lifestyle publication for those who are retired, semi-retired or approaching retirement. But most importantly, those who believe that life really does begin at 50! Life Begins At has loads of features from celebrity interviews, domestic and international travel, home improvements and gardening, health and well-being, as well as financial tips and advice. The magazine is designed to meet the needs of a whole new generation of informed, healthy and active retirees.

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