"A wonderful person." "The best boss I've ever had."
"Super friendly." "He made you a better human."
"The most caring person I ever met."
Tributes have been pouring in following the sad news that Mark Waghorne – better known to all who met him as Wags – has passed away after a years-long battle with cancer. Wags was one of the most popular figures in the local beer industry, particularly in Melbourne where he held senior sales roles at Mountain Goat, Temple and Moon Dog.
Speak to the many who worked with him or knew him through beer and the regard in which he was held could not be higher.
Simon "Frakey" Frake first came across Wags in his pre-Goat days selling beer for Snowy Mountains; after watching him at work, Frakey felt the guy was going to struggle so handed over his customer list to give him a bit of a leg up, only to watch as he carved out a stellar path through the industry.
"He was one of those people that always exceeded expectations," Frakey says. "In my mind, he was the first to really formalise a conduit between everything – from retail, trade, sales, brewing schedules, branding, and so on. He was like the Swiss army knife of craft beer, because he had a tool for everything and did it all so well."
Having worked for Wags at Mountain Goat for close to four years – in a role he was encouraged by Wags to call "Country Goat" in order to "make people feel relaxed and familiar when I handed over my business card" – and then at Temple, Frakey says it was clear he wasn't just a manager but a natural leader.
"When you're in his orbit, you never want to leave," he says. "You just gravitated to him.
"There was one time we had the whole crew at the Abbotsford Convent and I looked at everyone and thought, 'I honestly love everyone here', and the only common denominator in the room was Wags. He had a knack for bringing people together that weren't always the same, yet always complemented each other.
"That's a gift – he really understood humans."
He recalls one occasion when, after he'd moved to his current role at Mt Duneed Estate, Wags and wife Nicky were guests at one of the Day On The Green events. There were around 30 to 40 guests who didn't know each other in a marquee; by the end, Frakey says, everyone was best friends with the couple.
As anyone who's been to one of those gigs, trying to make your way home alongside 20,000 others at the end can be a nightmare, so Wags stepped up.
"We were in a traffic jam, trying to leave, and he got out of the car – in a cowboy hat and Red Hot Chili Peppers vest – and started directing traffic," he says. "He was holding up buses and waving people through. I told him, 'You're so embarrassing right now!', but he was, 'No worries!'."
When it comes to the impact he had as a boss, Frakey recalls the day the news broke that Asahi had bought Mountain Goat.
"Wags said he'd resigned, and I literally couldn't walk down the stairs from the office as I was in shock," he recalls, adding of his passing: "It just puts everything in perspective – there's no meaning to this."
Goat co-founder Dave Bonighton recalls his former sales manager as "one of the warmest humans you could ever have the pleasure to meet.
"We were so lucky to have had him at Goat those years," he says. "He made everyone's job easier, and dammit, he made it fun as well. Gone way too soon."
Fixation co-founder Tom Delmont worked with Wags when they were both at Mountain Goat, although remembers him as "a friendly face" from their time as competitors prior to that.
"Wags was the best boss I've ever had in the game," Tom says, "a naturally gifted sales leader that 'led with his team'. Never scared of getting his hands dirty at festivals or in the trenches at plenty of events, he would also be just as comfortable negotiating national distribution arrangements with the country's largest retailers.
"Wags was a genuinely positive force in the good beer world: humble, incredibly clever, loveable. He would let others speak first, reserve judgement, and then provide support and keen insight. He would come up with many great ideas and help businesses grow, and ultimately thrive – his track record is incredible."
In their time as colleagues, they shared experiences at beer festivals here and overseas: sleeping in the front seats of Wags' Holden Cruze after one Geelong festival, heading to Beervana in Wellington and the Tasmanian International Beerfest in Hobart among many others.
Tom recalls: "One personal memory was when he understood we were both going in different directions after Goat and he simply said to me, 'I'll enjoy watching your career from a different business then, mate' and wished me his sincerest good wishes."
On his passing, he says: "He was looking good not that long ago, and the experimental treatment was going well. I saw him three weeks ago at his house and he was up and about, making coffees and upbeat. He was definitely fighting it then, but always kept his chin up.
"It was always something he was going to beat – we never doubted that, so it's quite hard to accept to be honest."
For Balter sales rep Dave Myers (pictured above behind the bar, with Wags on the right), it was on just the second day after he'd moved to Melbourne from Queensland with Little Creatures in 2010 that their paths first crossed; later, they'd go on to work side-by-side at Temple.
"I was sent to man the stand at the Club Kilsyth craft beer night for their members and I was next to Wags," he recalls. "We had a ball during the event and enjoyed a couple of beers – responsibly, of course – and at the end of the event he gave me his card and said if I needed any help with anything to call him anytime. I bet he had no idea I would be calling him every couple of weeks; to his credit he never missed the calls and was always happy to help.
"Wags was perfect in every situation and could adapt quickly to his surroundings and the people he was interacting with. He was like the kid in the street with a pool – everyone wanted to be his mate. He was extremely intelligent, impossible to fluster, and the most caring person I have met."
When Wags brought Dave to Temple following his move from Mountain Goat, they enjoyed what Dave calls "an intensive relationship", working together for the majority of the three years they were with the Brunswick brewery. And it's from that period he has his most meaningful recollection of the colleague he happily refers to as "the great man".
Dave says: "I unfortunately don't have much in the way of a father figure in my life and I was blessed that my time working with Wags at Temple coincided with the time Stacey and I had made the decision to start a family. I learnt so much just from watching the way he interacted with his kids and family as a whole.
"I would also spot him heading for a sneaky ciggy, follow him out the back of the brewhouse, where we'd stand on top of the trade waste, and I would pepper him with questions about how to be a good dad."
Mik Halse, who reps for Bandwagon Beverages, first met Wags when he was running Beer DeLuxe and also recalls how proud Wags was of his family – and how he was "super friendly and a great listener". As residents of Melbourne's western suburbs, they'd cross paths with their kids at Nippers carnivals.
"He’d always laugh at my random beer shirts and comment how I was corrupting the kids subliminally," Mik says. "Whilst he was wearing either a beat up Goat or a newer Moon Dog hat..."
While I didn't know Wags as well as many, it's impossible not to think of him without seeing his beaming grin and smiling eyes.
Or as Frakey puts it: "A cheeky grin and a glint in his eye, as if he was always about to celebrate, like the next moment was going to be the best."
For those who knew him, his passing will hurt deeply, but already there are discussions underway as to how to celebrate Wags, who is survived by wife Nicky and young sons Jasper, Leroy and Banjo, in the very best way possible too.
I have been contacted by a growing number of people eager to celebrate Wags and support his family in a variety of ways. If we can help coordinate efforts, or put people with ideas in touch with each other, we'd love to, so feel feel to get in touch via email and we'll do what we can.