IF a piece of machinery needed fixing or neighbours sought a helping hand, Mark Mitchell was the first man in, but perhaps he forgot to help himself.
Two years ago, the Fleurieu Peninsula area wool manager for Viterra was at a specialist to check an injury when he was advised to visit his doctor as he appeared to have borderline diabetes.
He was later diagnosed with ischemic heart disease, characterised by reduced blood supply to the heart, and attributed to 17 per cent of deaths in Australian men.
Its combination with the diabetes proved deadly and led to Mark's untimely death at 49 late last year.
He did not want to worry his family with his health issues and it was only after his death that Sally learnt of his diagnosis from the doctor.
Country Health SA acting chief medical officer Peter Joyner said men tended to seek help for their health problems less than women and often left it until too late.
"Ischemic heart disease is the commonest cause of death in men in Australia, and is more frequent when the person has diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, smokes or has a family history of heart disease," he said.
"We would encourage men who are concerned about their health to seek support for their health problems as early as possible by speaking to their local GP."
Deeply disturbed by Mark's death, Sally has vowed to take up the cause of men's health.
"Men need to recognise that they try to look after everything else, like machinery and their families, but they also need to look after themselves," she said.
"Mark was very stressed a lot of the time, he put on a lot of weight, he was tired and he wouldn't sleep," Sally said.
"I suppose looking back they were all the signs. I did mention to him to perhaps go to the doctor but he didn't want to and you can't make people do things."
Mark began working at the family's Torrens Vale property before moving into the wool industry to take his career to the next level.
"He managed the Strath depot and set up the ABB depot at Kingscote, Kangaroo Island which was really successful – it then became Viterra," Sally said.
Mark started his successful career with Adelaide Wool at Port Adelaide and enjoyed the competitive nature of wool buying.
He was known for 'living on his mobile phone' as he corresponded with clients and was always out and about, travelling to Naracoorte and across the border for work.
Sally described her late husband as honest and genuine with "farming in his blood".
"He was very well-respected, and he worked very hard," she said.
Sally and her two daughters are now carrying on the farm Mark built-up at Hay Flat, Yankalilla which runs about 1200 head of prime lambs.
*Full report in Stock Journal, February 28 issue, 2013.