In one of life’s cruel ironies Warren Meanwell, founder of one of Australia’s most respected manufacturers and distributors of sun-protective clothing, died on December 4 after a four-year battle with melanoma. He was 49.
In 1994 Warren and wife Kerryn began to market apparel to reduce the incidence of skin cancer in people in high-risk categories – those who love to spend long hours outdoors.
In the years following, they moved to the village of Federal, in the Byron hinterland of northern NSW, and developed a sophisticated, stylish and efficient line of sun protection apparel for outdoor people of all ages under the Go-So brand.
Go-So clothing and headwear became extremely popular among anglers, outdoor workers and sunwise beach goers. It became available through tackle shops, outdoors stores and eventually through a retail outlet at Byron Bay and an active website.
Warren and Kerryn were active members of the Australian Fishing Trade Association and made many friends at the annual trade shows, where Go-So products won a number of ‘best clothing’ awards.
Warren grew up in regional Australia, including Exmouth in Western Australia, Katherine in the Northern Territory and Amberley in Queensland.
In his late teens he ventured off to Southeast Asia for a four-week holiday, jumped on a yacht in Phuket and spent the next four years sailing and diving around Southeast Asia. His passion for life on the water took him to the US, around the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in later years.
“While Kerryn and I were running the Brisbane market stalls, members of my fair-skinned family were beginning to experience skin problems related to sun exposure,” Warren said some years ago. “It wasn’t unusual for my Mum to go to the doctors every couple of months and have 30 solar keratoses burnt from her skin.
“That helped to fuel the passion to produce products that help guard people against the consequences of exposure to the harsh Australian sun. I was brought up in some of the hottest parts of Australia and seldom wore a hat or a shirt – we just didn’t know at the time how dangerous the sun could be, but we knew far better by the mid-1990s.”
In mid-2006 Warren noticed a change to a 3-4mm mole on his inner shin over a few weeks. Following the ‘mole patrol’ instructions on their own Sun Protection Australia company website (www.sunprotection.com.au), he sought medical advice and the growth turned out to be a malignant melanoma requiring a wide excision and a skin graft.
“I was surprised at just how fast it grew and maybe I was a bit slow getting to the doctor,” he said. “It’s an insidious disease that still has the medical community baffled. But one thing is for sure, the majority of melanoma cases are fuelled by too much sun.
“I’m in no doubts that my journey in this life is to get that message and some preventative solutions out there as much as I can. It’s the horrid cancer that I've worked for so many years to bring to people’s attention, and developed products to help them avoid.
“Every time I got burnt as a youngster, I was doing irreparable damage and increasing my chances of developing melanoma.”
To the end, Warren remained cheerfully evangelical in his campaigning for sun protection and, in typical fashion, also became deeply involved in global, national and local cancer issues.
Warren leaves behind Kerryn, son Matthew and daughter Lara, as well as a huge legacy to countless people who through his efforts, will not have to die the same way. – Tony ZannReads: 3046