Charters Towers community raises $90k for grieving family

The spirit of community

Life & Style
Nutrien's Judith Buchholz and Brent Williams, Peter Matthews (centre), his kids Noah, Seth, Holly, Maggie and Evie, and Dick Pugh. Photo: Vicki Miller

Nutrien's Judith Buchholz and Brent Williams, Peter Matthews (centre), his kids Noah, Seth, Holly, Maggie and Evie, and Dick Pugh. Photo: Vicki Miller

Aa

Cattle drive aids north Queensland family in time of heartache.

Aa

When local bus driver Dick Pugh took it upon himself to raise donations in support of a grief stricken family in the Charters Towers community, he could not have imagined the impact it would have.

The small bush community had been rocked by the news of 45-year-old Suzanne Matthews passing, after losing her one-and-a-half-year battle with cancer in August, leaving behind her husband Peter and five young children aged four to 18.

What started with 'just a few' cattle donations at the local sale, soon grew as word travelled throughout the community.

"Not long after her passing I was driving home and I just thought something had to be done," Mr Pugh said.

"I just had a bit of a brainwave because I had a few other grazing family's kids on the bus, so I thought I'd ask them to maybe donate a weaner at the sale, and with the price of cattle now that adds up to a lot of money. I was only expecting to get about 10 head.

"I was hoping to raise $10,000, then it got up to $30,000 and then we got to $50,000 and it just kept growing."

Mr Pugh, who lives on Springview, a 1416 hectare (3500 acres) cattle property at Mingela, has been the local community bus driver for the last 35 years and knew the Matthews family well.

"Their kids come on my bus and initially their father Peter was on my bus 30 odd years ago when I first started the bus run, so I've had a long association with the family," he said.

The news of Suzanne's passing hit close to home for Dick, who lost his own mother to cancer when he was 18.

"My mum passed away in her 40s from cancer and my dad was left with six kids to look after as well, I was the eldest and my youngest siblings had been 10 at the time," he said.

The Matthews family attended the sale at Charters Towers earlier this month. Photo by: Vicki Miller Photography.

The Matthews family attended the sale at Charters Towers earlier this month. Photo by: Vicki Miller Photography.

Mr Matthews was lost for words at the level of community support his family received.

"It's hard to explain because it's overwhelming and wonderful but at the same time it nearly makes us cry every time because of the situation and why it has happened," he said.

"Thank you to Mr Pugh, and everybody, every single grazier and local business owner in town who donated or contributed in any way.

"It'll be a huge help, with five kids having to go through through school, and university and get jobs and cars, and now with me not working it's been quite difficult. We're completely overjoyed and overwhelmed with the love and support from the community."

Mr Pugh couldn't believe the response.

"Initially, I started ringing the families that were on the bus and the response was so good I just kept ringing and ringing and ringing until someone said no, and no one did," he said.

"It got up to nearly 60 people that I spoke to. Around 50 of them were grazing families and then I approached some of the local businesses that were associated with the grazing industry in town.

"I spoke to each person individually, and 50 to 60per cent of the people who donated didn't know the family at all. For them to be so giving the way they were was extraordinary."

Mr Pugh said all together the local community had raised $90,000 for the Matthews family.

"There were about 25 donations of cash, and vouchers from grazing and local families which tallied about $30,000, and 45 head of cattle donated by 30 different landholders which tallied $60,000," he said."

The stories of generosity were remarkable.

"One family were going to donate one heifer from a pen of five, and when the lady went home to tell her husband about the donation he said 'give them the lot'," Mr Pugh said.

"Another fellow couldn't work around sending a weaner in so he just asked if he could do a sale average - he turned up in the Nutrien office with just under $5000.

"Even a local 12-year-old Charters Towers boy wanted to be involved and donated $20 from his piggybank, following in the footsteps of his parents and grandparents who made donations."

Nutrien Charters Towers agent Brent Williams, who supported Mr Pugh in turning his plan into reality, said the response had been outstanding.

"It's turned into something that we couldn't have expected or comprehended because there was a fair portion of the people who donated that didn't know the Matthews family personally. They just knew that there was a family going through a tough time," he said.

"We're lucky to have people like Dick in this community, if it wasn't for him none of this would have happened."

Mr Pugh credited Judith Buchholz at Nutrien for handling the nominations as they poured in.

In other news:

Want news highlights delivered to your inbox? Sign up to the North Queensland Register newsletter below.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by