Mario Tabone’s passing away has meant Malta’s loss of one of its most respected intellectuals but also one of Malta’s most experienced opthalmologists, much admired not only for his expertise but also for his treating patients as persons to be respected and even liked.
His sociability was proverbial, and a conversation between him and a friend was enjoyable, with the added bonus of being also informative, with comments based on one of the books he was reading at the time or one of the thousands he had read since his student days. Books were one of the great loves of his life, and his private collection was enormous, perhaps the largest in Malta today.
His love of books was exceeded by that he had for his family, his wife Josephine whom he lost only two years ago, his sons Jean Paul and Mark, and his daughter Simone Stilon. He was also a fond grandfather, and I have a vivid memory of his joy when he told me of a grandson who had done well in a British university.
He was an intellectual in the field of science, with which he tried to keep up to date, publishing several papers, and in politics, being a Nationalist sympathiser, playing a significant role for many years and being president of AŻAD for some years. Perhaps the most important public role he played was as chairman of Heritage Malta between 2003 and 2008, years in which the astonishing Terracotta Soldiers exhibition from China, as well as an important Caravaggio exhibition, were held, and the significant underwater exploration project at Xlendi was given a big boost. His effortless courtesy and bonhomie towards all the staff helped make Heritage Malta a pleasant organisation to work for during his years there.
Mario wrote articles but never published books. He himself was a walking book, a walking encyclopedia rather.