Widow enjoys her yard for the first time since Ray's death
AFTER Coz Stewart's husband returned from war more than 50 years ago, they made all their decisions together, until she was widowed on December 10, last year.
For the past six months, she's been readjusting to her new life with photos of Ray to keep her company.
But with age an inhibitor, there was one thing Mrs Stewart couldn't get on top of - the garden.
Weeds and trees dominated the backyard and Mrs Stewart started feeling trapped inside her home.
She said the sight of the overgrown garden was too much to bare and she avoided the space all together.
"It's been getting me down so much that I hated to come out to see all the weeds,” Mrs Stewart said.
But as of yesterday morning, the garden will no longer be an issue with the army, SES and Rockhampton Legacy coming to her assistance.
The team cut down trees, pulled out weeds, mowed the grass and did any odd job on offer.
The program was organised by Rockhampton Legacy, which provides care for the families of deceased and incapacitated veterans.
The service helps about 65,000 widows and widowers, as well as 1,800 children and dependants with a disability.
"I don't know what I would've done without legacy,” Mrs Stewart said.
"They've helped me fill in forms, they're always there for you, just a phone call away.”
Mrs Stewart was just one of four widows assisted by the legacy team yesterday.
The four womens' husbands served overseas in wars including World War II, Vietnam, New Guinea, and the Middle East.
Legacy volunteer Lorraine Harry said the service was all about supporting the family of those who risked their lives for the benefit of others.
"You can see the results today with what they offer the widows,” Mrs Harry said.
"Widows can get help in the areas where they don't know where to start.”
The backyard program is aimed to give independence to the families of those who have served their country and to restore pride in and enjoyment of their homes.
Legacy worked with soldiers from the 31st/42nd Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment, and local community organisations and businesses to clean out the widow's backyards.
Capricornia Company 31st 42nd Battalion Royal Queensland Regiment Officer in Command Major Robert Grant said the initiative was a great cause.
"It's the younger generation of soldiers helping the older generation,” Major Grant said.
"If a soldier was injured in war they would be supported by legacy so we are just helping each other as part of the community.”
The team worked from the early hours of the morning to remove various fruit trees from Mrs Stewart's backyard.
She said her gardening duties would now be a lot easier thanks to the initiative.
"It's like a big Christmas present,” Mrs Stewart said.
She plans to leave all the garden work to the "mower man” from now on, which means she will no longer have to risk falling forward when attending to the garden.
She said she still finds herself turning around to talk to Ray but now she will be able to do so in her backyard.
Legacy's Rockhampton and Central Queensland group chairman Brian Hollins said Backyard Assist not only helped older widows of deceased servicemen maintain their yards, it also helped them maintain a connection with their husbands.
"There's nothing more heartbreaking than to see a mate's family home looking sad and tired, especially when so many special family memories have been made there,” Mr Hollins said.
"Despite their current state, you can see these yards were once special spaces for these veterans and their families, and we try to restore that dignity, and make them safer and more manageable for our widows.”
He said "looking out for your mate” was a value ingrained in the Aussie consciousness but for Legacy, it was more than a belief.
"It's a solemn duty the organisation has upheld for 96 years,” Mr Hollins said.
"I'm proud to see our local soldiers and community and business volunteers carry on this tradition by accepting a legacy of responsibility for the welfare of the wives of soldiers who served our nation many decades ago.
"Backyard Assist is just another way we're helping to care for these widows. It's not very much to give back to families who have given so much.”