Mary helping hands
ACROSS the North East, a dedicated group of community minded people work tirelessly to look after the wives or families of deceased and incapacitated servicemen of a range of conflicts.
Secretary/treasurer of the Wangaratta/ Myrtleford/Bright Legacy group, Elaine Sewell, said Legacy helps meet the needs of just over 200 people in the region.
Those needs range from transport to medical or legal appointments, to being taken on outings, or even just getting a phone call or a visit to check up.
She recalled Legacy helping a large group of widows around 18 months ago, giving them all Australian made knee rugs in order to help them stave off the cold and save money on their energy bills.
“There’s no set pattern – we just help where we can,” she said.
Whether it be the occasional phone call or chat over afternoon tea, a present at Christmas, social gatherings and outings, or other help, members of Legacy say they love taking the time to give back to the community.
Current local Legacy president Bob Hayward said that many services provided by Legacy have come full circle, from working with widows and families in its earlier days, to looking out for elderly widows.
Widows of Vietnam veterans are also involved, and while it is less common because many veterans choose to live elsewhere, Legacy sometimes helps families in the wake of more recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bob has been involved in Legacy for close to 25 years.
“I began in Bourke, NSW and have now served here in Wang nearly 20 years,” he said.
He said mateship and community service is central to the organisation.
“This ethos was born out of the plea by wounded and dying soldiers to a fellow soldier to ‘look after me missus and kids’,” he said.
“Our charter was simply to do anything we humanly could to help ease the burden of a family without a husband and father.
“Many widows over the years have testified to the help and care exercised by Legatees which saw them through a very difficult time.
“Many children have been assisted with schooling, camps and other needs and have gone on to become excellent role models and highly contributing members of society.
“I personally believe it also just comes down to friendship.
“Many widows may have no immediate needs but everyone loves a visit, a cuppa, and a word of encouragement, which we can freely give.”
Wangaratta woman Betty Law has given many years of service to Legacy, first as part of Legacy Ladies, then as a Legatee herself, making her mark as the first female president of the Wangaratta/Myrtleford/Bright Legacy group.
“They’ve always been a great lot to work with,” she said of Legacy. “I loved being with them.” She has seen many members of her family serve, from several uncles serving in World War One (one perished in Pozieres), and her husband in New Guinea in the air force in World War Two.
Her father enlisted in World War Two, but an injury prevented him from fighting, while her father-inlaw fought in the Somme in World War One.
Mrs Law said she was grateful for all the friendships she had made over the years, and was also thankful for the support Legacy has received from the community, including businesses such as Cullens Bus Lines.
Among locals whose involvement with Legacy has come full circle is Wangaratta resident Ashley Gilmartin.
His father, William (known as Victor) Gilmartin, served in the air force during World War Two, but passed away in the years following the war, when Ashley was still a boy.
He said Legacy was an invaluable help to his mother Eily and his family, keeping in touch with her and involving the children in Legacy camps and regular Boys Club meetings, as well as providing items such as firewood.
Ashley got involved with Legacy’s Wangaratta/Myrtleford/ Bright group about a decade ago.
“I wanted to give a bit back,” he said.
His role includes being a point of contact for a number of widows registered with the organisation, and he finds fulfilment in that role.
Legacy Week, taking place this year between August 27-September 2, is an annual appeal to raise awareness and funds for families of incapacitated and deceased veterans.
Badges will be sold at various locations throughout the North East, including the Post Office Arcade and Bunnings in Wangaratta.
Wangaratta Ladies Legacy meets at the Wangaratta RSL sub-branch on the second Wednesday of every month at 1.30pm and more information is available from Margaret Johns on (03) 5722 1131.
For more information on Legacy see www.legacy.com.au.
Legacy members Bob Hayward and Elaine Sewell enjoy a friendly chat. GIVING BACK:
YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: Betty Law has been involved in Legacy Ladies and as a Legatee for many years.