Remembering the people we lost in 2018
EACH year the Clarence Valley loses a little of its identity when the residents that make up this great community see out their final days here. As a new year begins we reflect upon these people and pay tribute to a few of those we lost in 2018:
January: Don Scott
GRAFTON diesel mechanic Don Scott died on New Year's Day 2018 aged 53.
The cortege to his burial site led by a convoy of trucks driven by his MI Organics colleagues, an ode to hard-working man who was fought and lost his battle with illness.
Mr Scott was born and raised in Grafton, a happy child who astounded his family by his amazing prowess for solving puzzles from a young age. Schooled in South Grafton, he began his working life as a diesel mechanic apprentice at Cummins, where his aptitude for learning continued, studying as many spec sheets he could find on trucks and machinery as well as memorising every edition of Trucking Life he owned.
After completing his apprenticeship, he worked for the family logging business for many years, and his yearning for knowledge in trucking and technology meant he was at the forefront of industry advancements as they happened. A member of IAME (Institute of Automotive Mechanical Engineers), Mr Scott took pride in passing his wealth of knowledge to anyone to wanted to know.
Besides his love of trucks, he played the bagpipes from a young age and was a member of the Grafton District Pipe Band. He wrote two pipe tunes for a competition when Princess Diana died and was commended for them.
After selling his interest in the family business, he went to work for MI Organics in Grafton, where he remained until illness made it impossible to continue.
Mr Scott was born with portal hypertension, diagnosed at age 10, he started to encounter difficulties at 19 which continued to reoccur in various forms which he battled on and off over the course of his life. In 2017, he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone marrow cancer. Treatment made him worse but he continued to soldier on as best he could until his death on New Year's Day.
His friends and family shared in his suffering until his death, paying tribute to his braveness and stoicism at his funeral."He fought the good fight 'til the end.”
January: Holly Butcher
THE death of young Clarence Valley woman Holly Butcher made an impact around the world.
Deprived of a full life because of a rare cancer, Ewings Sarcoma, Holly's message went viral when it was released upon her death in January.
Her message of hope were sage words from a young woman who touched the hearts of people from all walks of life, including legendary musician Cat Stevens who met Holly in the weeks before her death and shared her message to his legions of fans.
The once happy, healthy athletic young woman's ordeal attracted attention around the world. Her plea to donate blood after it gave her an extra year of life inspired 5000 new donations, a powerful gesture from someone who gave it her all to the very end.
February: Irene Crispin
ONE of the Clarence Valley's well-loved residents and treasures, Irene Crispin has passed away at the age of 104.
Son Neville (who also died later in 2018) said his mother died on Friday, February 23 after a short illness, and paid tribute to her longevity and character.
The Clarence Valley's second-oldest resident put her longevity down to training greyhounds and a positive outlook which she reiterated at her 104th birthday:
"My grandmother said to me when I was a little girl, 'you're put in this world to help your fellow man If you can't do him a good turn, never do him a bad one', and I've tried to adhere to that all my life. God's been good to me and I've had a good life, a happy life, and I've met such lovely people I can call my friends.
"What more can you ask?”
May: Tony White
FORMER Daily Examiner sports reporter and veteran racing writer Tony White died in May aged 64 after battling the effects of a stroke for nearly two years. He had only recently moved from Yamba to the Central Coast, where he spent his final days in a nursing home.
By the time he began working at The DEX in the early 2000s, he had a 30-year career with AAP and The Daily Telegraph as one of the leading racing writers in the country.
He worked at the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs during the 1980s, having commenced his career in the media with AAP (Australian Associated Press) in the 1970s.
When he ventured north to Grafton he covered racing and general sport for The DEX before writing as a freelance, filing country racing articles for Racing NSW, Fairfax and AAP.
Tony was also a champion surfer in the late 1970s and '80s, competing on the world surfing tour and last year was inducted into the Australian Surfing Walk of Fame at his beloved Maroubra Beach.
June: Tim Clark
TIM Clark, 'Noe' to his mates (Clark with no 'e'), died from a primary brain tumour glioblastoma multiforme in June.
The otherwise fit and healthy 57-year-old Grafton plasterer was diagnosed with the terminal disease in September 2017 after getting headaches and the young family was thrust into the terrible reality of facing a life ahead without him.
The Grafton community naturally stepped up to help as much as they could by organising one of the largest trivia events in the history of the Helping Hands organisation, with around 600 people attending and more than $40,000 raised for the Clark family.
Mr Clark was a hard-working popular tradie and friend of many, the outpouring of support indicative of his much-loved presence. His dedication to the sport he loved, basketball, was honoured by the association when they introduced the inaugural Tim "Noe” Clark Memorial Shield later that year.
July: Kelly Cassidy
McKITTRICK Park South Grafton was bathed in a sea of red and white in July to honour the life of Kelly Cassidy, the colours of her two favourite teams.
Family, friends and colleagues gather from around Australia to celebrate the life of the executive assistant to the St George Illarwarra Rugby League club's CEO Peter Doust, who died in Wollongong from the effects of a stroke, aged 41.
The former South Grafton Rebels strapper worked with St George Leagues Club for 20 years beginning her career there as a part-time barmaid.
"She was so totally devoted to her job she came back here to visit us twice a year, we were her part-time family. The rest of the time she was with her St George family, 24/7,” her mother Romayne Hourigan said.
Mrs Hourigan expressed the peace the family found in her daughter's wish to participate in the organ donation program if anything were to happen to her. "It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make... but four people are now alive and have a chance of life because of her donation,” she said at the time.
August: Andrew Tarrant
ANDREW Tarrant had a special soul, his wife Kerrie said, and it was a soul that touched many people's lives. Her words proved true when more than 400 people lined the riverfront at Memorial Park in Grafton to remember his life.
Overlooking the Clarence River that Andrew loved so much, family, friends, colleagues and students said goodbye to one of the kindest and most generous men they'd met.
He worked in education for 15 years, he connected with students because of his friendly nature but not having been a high-flying academic at school, he understood where many students came from
Andrew, who died on August 5 following a battle with gastrointestinal cancer, was born at Runnymede Hospital in January 1959 and grew up on a family farm on Southgate Rd.
He was a member of the Susan and Elizabeth Island Trust, a life member of Yamba Surf Life Saving Club, a member of Grafton Rowing Club, Grafton Water Brigade and Grafton Midday Rotary Club.
August: David Brown
FORMER Grafton Primary School principal David Brown died in August after a brief illness due to mesothelioma, a result from exposure to asbestos while working with a father and grandfather who were builders and his overseeing of school repairs over many years.
Mr Brown came to the Clarence Valley in 1980 as principal of Grafton Public School, a position he retained until his retirement in 1996.
During that time he discovered a love of cycling and particularly the gruelling Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic. By 1989, Mr Brown had put enough miles in his legs to enter the race and at 53 became the event's oldest first-up competitor.
Off the bike and out of the playground Mr Brown was also a regular letter writer to The Daily Examiner, where his wit and perception were enjoyed.
Former students and colleagues travelled from all over Australia to pay their respects to the man who inspired them throughout their school careers.
August: Aunty Pauline 'Nola' Gordon
THE Clarence Valley lost one of its great indigenous and community champions, Pauline 'Nola' Gordon.
Mrs Gordon, of Grafton and Baryulgil, died on August 27, aged 85. She was the the widow of Ken 'Linky' Gordon.
A member of the Stolen Generation, Mrs Gordon became a passionate advocate for her people in the fields of health and education.
In response to the disastrous effects of the Baryulgil asbestos mine, she and her husband were instrumental in setting up the Aboriginal Medical Service.
Her expertise was such she spoke at indigenous and environmental forums in Norway, Paris, Rio De Janeiro and South Dakota.
"I do believe in getting around and ... letting people know who we are as a people (and that) white Australia does also have a black history. I think that racial divisions happen when people don't understand each other and that's when you get discrimination, so if you just inform people about each other then there'll be less problems,” she told The Daily Examiner in an interview in 2006.
Mrs Gordon was a believer in life-long education, in 2006 graduating from the Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in Darwin with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Social Sciences.
September: Vicki Winmill
IT IS not often a standing ovation is observed at a funeral. But then again Vicki Winmill was no ordinary woman. The great-grandmother from Ulmarra was a history-maker. She was a hero. She was an organ donor.
Vicki created a moment of medical history when she became the first person to have their organs processed at Grafton Base Hospital.
The 71-year-old donated her kidneys and eyes after a brain aneurysm tragically took her from her loving family in September.
September: Jim Agnew OAM
THE saying "when you leave a place, it should be in better shape than when you found it”, might have been penned with Lower Clarence champion Jim Agnew in mind.
The long-time Lower Clarence champion has left, Yamba, Maclean, his hometown of Warren and the world a remarkable legacy.
Mr Agnew died in the Opal Nursing Home, Dubbo, on September 27 at the age of 93, a little more than two years after the opening of the Yamba Community Health Centre, which bears his name.
It was his swansong after 26 years of community activism that began when Jim and his wife Grace (dec) arrived in Yamba in 1990.
As all of the politicians who represented the electorate in that time came to find out, Jim Agnew was not a man who would take no for an answer. One of those was MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, who penned a tribute to Mr Agnew to be read at his funeral.
Mr Gulaptis recalled he was a "cocky” Mayor of Maclean Shire when he first ran into Mr Agnew in 2001 or 2002.
"Maclean had an ambulance station and it was only 20 minutes from Yamba and the cries for an ambulance station for Yamba by the locals had fallen on deaf ears for the 20 years I had lived in the Lower Clarence.
"I told Jim it would never happen.
"This didn't stop Jim. Jim went and saw the then State Member for Clarence, Harry Woods, and Harry told him the same thing.
"How wrong we were.”
September: Virginia Hundt
DESCRIBED by friends as a beautiful soul and woman of great strength and courage, Grafton milliner Virginia Hundt died in September.
With rockabilly flair and frocks to make every woman's heart sing, her labels Wicked Dame and Belle du Jour were much-loved clothing lines for many fashionistas, not to mention the high demand for her custom-made hats.
She was an advocate of 1950s style and inspiration to many fans and organisations within that genre, the instigator of Grafton's Retrofest that is still feature of the Jacaranda Festival.
"This world will mourn our loss of such a divine presence, mother of two, dearest friend, quick-witted, sailor-mouthed intellect whose creations were as unique as her personality,” said a friend.
September: Laurie Stephenson
IT WAS standing room only at Christ Church Cathedral as hundreds gathered to say goodbye to Copmanhurst campdrafting and sporting Laurie Clifford Stephenson in September.
Family and friends from across the Clarence Valley and Australia gathered to pay their respects to Mr Stephenson, who died aged 84.
The man who "loved and was loved” was described as a "gentle man who was a gentleman”.
Mr Stephenson was born in Grafton and lived his early life on the Barretts Creek homestead, where his father was a stockman and he began his lifelong love of horses.
After leaving Grafton High, he returned to Barretts Creek and worked as a stockman, before entering National Service in 1954. He met his future wife Elaine at a dance at Coaldale Hall, and the love that blossomed from the first dance became a wonderful partnership that lasted some 60 years.
While Mr Stephenson was a sportsmen of note in a number of sports, it was in campdraft where he excelled. He was won The Daily Examiner Sports Star of the Year Award in 1980.
October: Angelo Notaras OAM
PART of Grafton's Notaras dynasty, Angelo Notaras OAM, died in October aged 85 after a short illness.
Along with his brothers John and Mitchell and cousin Spiro, Angelo refurbished Grafton's Saraton Theatre in 2010, a fitting legacy to the city the family loved.
"Angelo did most of the behind-the-scenes planning for the project, while Spiro was more hands-on, working with the builders,” long-time Notaras Sawmill employee Donna Layton said at the time.
Angelo Notaras was an inventor and businessman whose work with small engines spawned the highly successful Atom Industries.
He was also a passionate advocate for the Australian Greek community through the Kytherian Association of Australia.
In the 2014 Australia Day Honours, Angelo received the Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division for his work with heritage buildings and the Australian and Greek communities.