By Paul Dobbyn
MATER Hospital ophthalmologist Dr Mark McGree died in August but, thanks to the generosity of those attending his funeral, his memory is living on.
It’s continuing in the form of $10,000 donated for a refuge for the Gold Coast’s homeless people.
His wife Bev, mindful of her 61-year-old husband’s passion for social justice, came up with the idea of donations rather than flowers for the funeral held at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Sunnybank.
“I decided instead of people spending money on flowers which would just die, the donations would be a good way to help out the St Vincent de Paul Society,” Mrs McGree said.
“My husband had often helped the less well-off while he was alive and this seemed to be a fitting way to remember him.
“I raised the idea with parish priest Fr Dan Ryan and he was most supportive.”
The $7500 collected at the September 4 funeral was probably the largest single collection the church had seen. There were a few surprises in the collection.
“I received an envelope full of $100 notes and thought: ‘Goodness who gave this?’” Mrs McGree said.
An envelope containing a $2 coin was even more thought-provoking.
“Obviously it had come from a pensioner who must have been very fond of Mark and most likely was one of his patients,” Mrs McGree said.
“It occurred to me this donation may have cost the person more than the one who’d donated the notes.”
Mrs McGree said her husband’s illness had come as a real shock.
“He’d never had a sick day in his life then, about a year back, he developed a cough,” she said. “We thought it was probably asthma but an X-ray revealed he had cancer which had spread to his lungs.
“Mark never questioned why he had the illness although he said he was sad to be leaving me, our children and his work.
“He was dead within 10 months of the diagnosis.”
Since the funeral, donations have continued to flow and the amount raised now stands at more than $10,000.
St Vincent de Paul Society Gold Coast conference president Noel Sweeney said the “totally unexpected” money would go to the development of a centre for the homeless.
“It’s been added to a sum of $51,000 raised during a winter sleepout this year,” he said.
“Bev’s wonderful idea will help provide a lasting memorial to her husband.”
Mrs McGree’s hope is the concept of donations to charities such as the St Vincent de Paul Society in lieu of flowers becomes more widely adopted.
“It is a very meaningful way to honour the deceased and support a major Church charity,” she said.