Parkes farewells a true gem, Yvonne Hutton OAM on Wednesday

“She just never stopped working for the town [and]...looking after others and the museum,” Tricia Jackson said on Wednesday.

Dedicated, tireless, passionate and loyal – these were the words used to describe one of Parkes’ most remarkable community women, Yvonne Hutton OAM.

Yvonne passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family on Sunday, March 4, after a long battle with cancer. She was 85 years old.

Many of those lives she touched over the decades were present at her funeral at St George’s Anglican Church on Wednesday afternoon, followed by committal at the Parkes Cemetery.

“Today we come together to say farewell to and celebrate the life of an extraordinary lady,” Yvonne’s daughter Tricia said prior to giving her eulogy.

“Over the last couple of days I have been looking through bits and pieces Mother kept from her long life and I came across a reference from the high school principal in 1947, and in that reference he referred to her as being of average ability.

“Boy how wrong he was! There was absolutely nothing average about her!”

Yvonne was born on January 19, 1933 and was the third child and daughter of Matthew Henry Medlyn and his second wife Elizabeth nee Tyrrell.

Her lifelong involvement in hospitals began when she became a nurse after finishing high school, meeting the love of her life and her lifelong partner Jim Hutton when he came into her ward with polio.

The couple married on June 26, 1954 at the Congregational Church in Ashfield – this year would have been their 64th wedding anniversary. They moved to Parkes in December 1955.

She was never a person to do nothing.

Tricia Jackson

Yvonne became a community stalwart through her involvement with a range of groups and organisations right up until her passing – from a member of the ladies auxiliary to swimming teacher to a councillor with local government.

Alongside Jim, she was a swimming instructor for more than 40 years – and by 1995 the pair had taught more than 10,000 kids to swim for which they received a state award.

“Yvonne Hutton OAM had tirelessly served the community of Parkes and district in a range of capacities over her lifetime,” Parkes Mayor Ken Keith said.

“Yvonne was a valued member of the Parkes Centenary Committee, the Parkes Neighbourhood Centre Management Committee, the Parkes Hospital Board and the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Board, including the production of two history books, Centenary and 125th.

“However, it was her service to the Learn to Swim program which was unparalleled, coordinating free Learn to Swim campaigns for over 40 years.

“She was awarded the Parkes Shire Citizen of the Year in 1985, recognising her voluntary services, particularly to the "Learn to Swim" movement.”

Yvonne was elected to Parkes Shire Council in 1991 and served the community she loved in this role until 2008.

During this time she was involved in many council committees including the Pool Management Committee, Heritage Committee, Tourism Board and the Tidy Towns Committee where she was the guiding light. Yvonne also volunteered to be part of the committees which organised various celebrations over the years, such as the 125th Anniversary of Parkes and the Bicentenary of Australia.

“She was never a person to do nothing,” Tricia said.

“Mother...was a councillor for 17 years. She never ignored a request for help from a constituent and was involved in many many projects, including the solar heating for the pool, the Bushman’s Hill, the garden at the cemetery for stillborn babies and of course the museum. 

“Her time at council was not always happy but being a woman of strong principle she always stood up for what she believed was right and not just the circumspect solution.

“Mother was very proud of the fact that one grandfather, John Medlyn, was an early councillor and was mayor of Parkes three times. 

“Her great-grandfather John Flint was mayor of Forbes, so you might say local government ran in her veins.

“She was also proud of the fact that her grandfather and uncles were involved in building the first hospital and that she, another Medlyn, was involved in the new one.”

The world has lost someone special whom I am very proud to know.

Tricia Jackson

In recent years Yvonne immersed herself in the local Parkes & District Historical Society (PDHS) becoming enthused about preserving the history of Parkes for future generations – what her daughter described as “her life’s work”.

She was elected President of the Society in 1994 and passionately led the PDHS down an autonomous path as part of the Henry Parkes Centre.

“It is a testament to her, past and present volunteers, that the [Henry Parkes Museum] has 10,000 items in its collections and this being added to every day,” Tricia said.

“Many buildings and parts of Parkes’ heritage have been preserved because of her tireless efforts to ensure our community’s early days have not been forgotten.

“We have had a real battle with her cancer over the last couple of years but she rarely missed a day.

“In fact the last day she was fully conscious she went to the museum for a short time in the morning. It was where her friends were, the objects she loved were and where she could share with visitors the wonders of our town.

“The museum wouldn’t be where it is without both of them (mum and dad) and mum would not have had her career without daddy driving her everywhere.

“It is a family joke that when Prince Charles came to town, he said “councillor” to my father, who said “no mate, my wife’s the councillor and I’m the one who walks behind”.

“The world has lost someone special whom I am very proud to know.”