A bond with a sibling can be one of the strongest connections we make in our lives. For Yvonne Clements and her brother, Alf Hughes, their bond was unbreakable. He was more than her brother; he was her best friend.
Even as adults they remained inseparable, particularly once they had both retired. Yvonne and Alf would spend many Sundays exploring parts of Victoria, enjoying a lunch together or heading to car and art shows. They often lulled away the hours under the boughs of the fruit trees in Alf’s orchard on his property, Myoora, in Koonawarra.
Yvonne said it was their upbringing that sealed her and Alf’s bond. “I think we were particularly close because we were blessed with such a loving upbringing. We were raised on an old pioneering farm in Gippsland. We didn’t have much, but we both agreed, we had one of the richest childhoods.”
IMAGE: Yvonne's brother, Alf Hughes.
13 June 2017 is a date that will forever haunt Yvonne. It was the day her beloved brother left this world.
Yvonne had popped by Alf’s home for a visit, as she often did. It was strangely quiet when she arrived. Alf had passed away suddenly, alone, from a massive heart attack. The years of heavy labour work as a gas rigger in Bass Straight had taken their toll.
Yvonne recalls, “To me, my brother was invincible. He was a powerful man, standing at 6 foot 6 inches. You don’t expect to lose someone at 68. It was a massive shock.”
A quiet, gentle person, Alf had been well-liked by his local community. He was remembered as clever, kind-hearted and generous to a fault.
“Alf taught me the importance of generosity. I remember him telling me, ‘Sis if you give money do not expect to get it back.’
“I never realised how many people Alf had touched. His funeral brought people from far and wide to our little town of Meeniyan in South Gippsland,” Yvonne said.
Alf was an expert handyman. After retiring, he utilised his skills to create his passion project, Myoora, a stunning reproduction Victorian-style home set on 16 acres of lush lawns and gardens. He spent 20 years constructing the heritage-style home from original materials. This included 17,000 coal-fired bricks and lead light windows sourced from across Victoria.
Yvonne was the only person named in Alf’s Will. The inheritance included Alf’s property.
Yvonne said it was Alf’s wish for her to sell Myoora. “When Alf passed away, the property was classed as an owner/builder dwelling, which meant by law I had to wait to sell it. I looked after the home for three years, visiting every day.”
IMAGE: 'Myoora' in Koonwarra, South Gippsland
A legacy to honour Alf’s memory
Nothing can ever fill the deep void of losing Alf, but creating a lasting legacy has given Yvonne the chance to honour and celebrate his memory.
“I can’t bring him back but I can do right by him. As soon as Alf passed, I knew instinctively what I needed to do. I decided to create a legacy to enable me to support medical research. I selected three organisations undertaking important research to give funds to.”
Yvonne was treated at St Vincent’s Private Hospital for a brain aneurysm six months before Alf passed. She was impressed by the care she received. While she was there, Yvonne popped into the St Vincent’s Foundation Victoria office to enquire about supporting the hospital.
“They gave me a brochure about the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery (ACMD). I was fascinated by the project. I literally kept that brochure for several years during the time we set up Alf’s legacy and while we waited to be able to sell Myoora.
“I have always been impressed with what will be undertaken at the ACMD. Medical research has the potential to benefit everybody. I love that it gives people hope,” Yvonne said.
IMAGE: Yvonne with Sue Parkes, CEO of St Vincent’s Foundation in front of the ACMD building site.
Yvonne revealed that her brother’s passing has changed her. “Part of me changed that night. This new journey has changed my outlook and changed me as a person. I can honestly say that managing Alf’s legacy has been life-saving for me. It’s helped me to cope with the insurmountable grief of losing my brother.
“Alf worked so hard. I didn’t want his life to be wasted and meaningless. My mum and dad laid down the foundation for us. I’m representing and honouring my whole family’s memory.”
Yvonne has chosen to give a significant gift to the ACMD, a direct legacy of Alf’s estate. In honour of this generous donation, the ACMD’s student collaboration lounge will be named ‘The Alf Hughes and Yvonne Clements Lounge’. This space in the new building will be a place where students can discuss their learnings, brainstorm solutions, and dream up new projects and ideas.
“I feel very honoured and humbled to be given this special opportunity to be part of this very important and extraordinary facility, along with Alf.
“Alf never liked a lot of praise or thank yous, so like me he’d be overawed by it all but I’m sure he would be happy to know we will be a part of it. I can imagine him saying, ‘Gosh sis, what a job you’ve done – this is really good.’ I think he’d be really proud,” Yvonne said.
Sue Parkes, CEO of St Vincent’s Foundation said Yvonne’s philanthropy is inspirational. “Philanthropy should be joyous, and it has been a privilege to be part of Yvonne’s joy in recognising her brother with her gift to ACMD. Yvonne’s leadership and the memory of Alf mean that important medical research can reach patients and change lives more quickly. Alf would be very proud. Thank you, Yvonne.”
To find out more about the ACMD and how you can be involved, please contact:
Melina Talanis, ACMD Capital Campaign Director, St Vincent's Foundation Victoria.
M 0426 110 533