PHOTOS: Marty's graveyard shift in memory of daughters, wife

RESTING PLACE: Martin Kelly at the grave site of two of his daughters, Gayle and Lynne, and his wife Elva.
RESTING PLACE: Martin Kelly at the grave site of two of his daughters, Gayle and Lynne, and his wife Elva. Rob Williams

SISTERS Gayle and Lynne Kelly were bright, smiley and happy go lucky young girls when they died.

They are fond memories their father Martin Kelly holds of his seven and six year old daughters when he visits their grave at Ipswich General Cemetery, where they lie with their mother, Elva.

Gayle and Lynne, two of Martin and Elva's five daughters, died in 1958 and 1960 following a four year fight against nephrotic syndrome, a condition of the kidneys which prevents the body from clearing fluid.

Martin has visited the site where his daughters and wife lie almost daily for 58 years, cleaning, mowing and weeding the area around the graves.

The lifetime Ipswich resident is about to turn 91 and unable to maintain the graves to the usually high standards he insists for his late family.

He is also unable to convince council to up the standards of cemetery care on his behalf.

"Gayle was very a serious girl and Lynn was a happy go lucky girl," Martin said.

"They used to puff up and they had a tap into them to get the fluid out of them.

"Sometimes when they puffed up they'd puncture their stomach and drain it and sometimes when that happened they'd start passing the fluid again.

"Gayle would be colouring away one day and she'd say I'm getting heavy again Daddy."

Some of his fondest memories of his wife Elva, who died in 2011, are early morning road trips to the country to calm her distress from dementia.

"I saw a donkey in the paddock one day and I said there's one of your relations over there and she said only by marriage," he said.

"She'd put up with me, she was a good cook, she looked after the kids, made all their clothes, took them to sport."

His daughter Robyn Kelly remembers a supportive and caring mother.

"She was a fabulous mum. Dad looked after mum really well at home for as long as she could, so mum had to put up with a lot," she said.

The sisters called the Royal Brisbane Hospital home on and off for more than four years and were admitted for up to 13 months at a time.

The family passed the time by sending mail daily and visiting for half an hour every night, unable to do anything to help the girls' condition.

Decades later Martin honours Gayle, Lynne and Elva's legacy by keeping their graves immaculate.

"Mum and Dad couldn't do a thing to help them so what they can do know is look after them here," Martin's daughter Sharna Kelly said.

Sharna and her sisters Robyn and Janice Dobbie grew up knowing very little or nothing of their young sisters.

"We've grown up thinking that we do know them. It's all part of their life without being here, so that's how important they were," Gayle said.

"All the time on any anniversary, we bring out special flowers, we've grown up coming to the cemetery every week so it's just been normal."

She said council had not been unreasonable in saying contractors were unable to keep up with Martin's standards of grave care but she saw where her sisters and mother lied as exceptional circumstances.

"He just can't physically do what he was able to do and he's put a lot of pride into it," she said.

"People can bend the rules to make something personal to a situation, when you know someone has devoted so much time and help over the years.

"Back then there was that respect and now it's all business.

"Being part of the community is showing respect to people. Dad's not asking for them to do anything extra, just to maintain it.

"It's just the way of the world now, nobody has any respect for anything anybody has done over the years and you lose that history and that kindness of human nature then the whole world is not going to be any good."

She said the family was not out to criticise but consideration into personal circumstances was warranted.

"It's till quite emotional after all these years and nothing has changed," she said.

"This is all he can do for them, he feels is he can't do this it's a lack of respect of their memory."

Martin has spent years writing to council in a bid to have the graves maintained where he no longer could.

"All I requested was it was mown when the rest of the cemetery was," he said.

"I get satisfaction out of it.

Lynne and Gayle Kelly, Royal Brisbane Hospital 1957
Lynne and Gayle Kelly, Royal Brisbane Hospital 1957 File

Ipswich City Council Health and Community Safety Committee Chairwoman Cr Sheila Ireland said she recognised the dedication and commitment Mr Kelly has shown over many years in "dutifully caring for the grave of his two children and beloved wife".

"The final resting place of a loved one holds special meaning,' Cr Ireland said.

"I want to reassure Mr Kelly this section of Ipswich General Cemetery will continue to be maintained, including through regular mowing.

"Council officers inspected the Ipswich General Cemetery following concerns raised by Mr Kelly. All evidence suggests the area in question is being maintained to an acceptable standard, including being mowed regularly."

Topics:  cemetery, editors picks, general-seniors-news, graveyard, ipswich city council, ipswich general cemetery

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