Farming widow bequeaths $2Sm for cancer treatment
Leonora McCormack, 95, lived a frugal life until the day she died.
As her last act, one half of a Hawke’s Bay farming power couple opened her wallet to help the people of the region she loved so much.
Leonora, who died on March 19 in lockdown, made a $2.5 million bequest to the Weem Trust, a private Hawke’s Bay trust established from the estate of her late-husband Tom McCormack, after his battle cancer was lost in 2002.
It means that cancer treatment in Hawke’s Bay will eventually be $2.5m better off, with the trust to decide exactly how it is spent.
Tom grew up in Maraekakaho during the Great Depression years of 1929-31. He was one of four siblings who survived on a family income of £2 10 shillings a week.
He served in Italy and Monte Cassino during World War II and returned determined to get his own farm.
He applied for a ballot farm in 1946 and in 1961 was offered land in Patoka.
That was the year the couple got married and, even though they had a farm, money was still tight.
But 36 years’ toil on their 223ha of land on Huirangi Rd, combined with business acumen, made it a success.
He and Leonora retired to Taradale in 1997.
With no family to share in his good fortune, Tom ensured the inheritance would pass to the people of Hawke’s Bay.
Their accountant Preston Epplett said the couple didn’t have any children of their own.
“Tom left everything to Leonora and she donated the money to the trust.”
He said after Tom’s death, significant grants were given to cancer charities, treatments and equipment through the trust since it started in 2004.
“Tom saw many of his friends who suffered from cancer and had to go to Palmerston North for treatment,” Epplett said.
“He wanted to avoid the need to go and to provide what ever could be done to assist those and their families who had cancer.
“Grants can only be made for the benefit of persons and their families who are living in Hawke’s and who are suffering from cancer.”
The trust has given grants totalling $2.1m since 2004, including $1.6m for a state-of-the-art 40-slice CT scanner. That would now be more than doubled with Leonora’s final bequest.
“The money was a result of very, very hard work, good farming, frugal living, and Leonora had assets of her own,” Epplett said.
Leonora, born Leonora Menzies in 1924, lived at her father’s farm on Anaroa Rd at Raukawa.
She was the youngest of six children and went to school at the old Raukawa Primary School.
At the time of her death she was living at Atawhai Rest Home & Village in Taradale, said Epplett.
“She’d only been there for a short period.
“She was living in her own home in Taradale, which she had shared with Tom before that, but she became a bit ill and moved to the rest home,” Epplett said.
A memorial service for Leonora will be livestreamed by Terry Longley & Sons at the All Saints Church, Taradale, on July 9 at 11am.
Epplett said he was expecting a big turnout considering how well known the couple was in the region.
“I don’t have numbers yet but I am thinking it will be big.”
Photo caption – Leonora and Tom McCormack in 1966.
PHOTO / HAWKE’S BAY KNOWLEDGE BANK
Service for lost lockdown loved ones
A memorial service for Napier families who lost loved ones during the Covid-19 lockdown will be held next week.
Napier City Council is helping Dunstalls Funeral Services to organise the service.
Councillor Richard McGrath said lockdown was a challenging time for everyone.
“It was particularly so for those who lost loved ones at that time.
“They couldn’t attend a service and this is a way of recognising and allowing families to grieve.”
During level 4 lockdown, no funerals were allowed at all.
At levels 2 and 3 they were allowed, but restrictions were in place on numbers that could attend.
Details of the memorial service are still being organised.
Katherine Dunstall said the service was a collaboration between all three Napier funeral homes, Dunstalls, Beth Shans and Howard & Gannon Funerals Limited.
“As part of the City recovery plan we have realised that there is hardship in this community with families missing the opportunity to grieve due to Covid-19,” she said.
“The funeral homes in Napier have come together with the council to provide the service.
“It’s a sign of respect for the loved ones lost, we want them to know ‘we hear you, feel you, and understand how it feels.”