Friday, July 21, 2023

Vale Vera Hatton AO: Vera spread her influence from the Shoalhaven to the world

Sad news reached us today that Vera Hatton passed away at her home in Huskisson  surrounded by her loved ones.   

Words cannot even begin to express our sorrow. 

A good heart has stopped beating, but a heart that has touched so many lives can’t help but live on in those it loved. Vera was the most a caring wife, mother,  Grandmother … and fabulous friend …

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.

Those of us who knew Vera Hatton have lost a dear friend and her husband, John, and children, Kim, John, and Robert , have lost a fiercely loyal and devoted wife and mother. 

Vera Hatton honoured for museum work

Vera Hatton spread her influence from the Shoalhaven to the world

Updated July 24 2023 - 5:14pm, first published4:30pm
Vera Hatton receives her Order of Australia Medal in 2012 from the NSW Governor, Marie Bashir. Picture supplied.
Vera Hatton receives her Order of Australia Medal in 2012 from the NSW Governor, Marie Bashir. Picture supplied.

The Shoalhaven has lost one of its champions and most passionate advocates with the death of Vera Hatton on Friday, July 21, at the age of 85.

Behind every national living treasure is a woman and Vera for better or worse was supporting her husband John during door knocking the entire electorate and cooking delicious food for the volunteers. 
~ Few men love their wives like John adored Vera. ( Deb R)

Vera was one half of one of the most extraordinary and certainly the most enduring personal and political partnerships in Australian history.  John and Vera celebrated together 65 wedding anniversaries.

Without Vera John Hatton would not have been as bright beacon to progressive thinkers on the South Coast, and a vigorous fighter for social justice. They both loved bushwalking, kayaking and they stood on matters of the environment which has given all of us an insight into their level playing field fairness and the ultimate principle that what is right is more important than what is profitable. They fought against the odds when corporate business interest  tried to build nuclear plant and later steel factory in the prestige Jervis  Bay.


  Vera supported John as councillor for the Shoalhaven shire, and then as mayor, where John represented the long view—that is, as Member of Parliament John looked at what was in the best interests of the community in the long term rather than at short-term profit. 

  Without Vera, John would not be as brave and become known around the world as `crimefighter'. 

Hattons have made a number of other contributions. They have  been on the cutting edge of the environment debate and on the cutting edge of the debate over the delivery of community services. They are loved by the Aboriginal communities as they treated them equally and helped them to their land rights and so much more …

Vera Hatton remembered as a passionate advocate for preserving the region's history"

The Shoalhaven has lost one of its champions and most passionate advocates with the death of Vera Hatton on Friday, July 21, at the age of 85.

The dedicated educator, historian and artist passed away at home after a long battle with dementia, that left her unable to speak for the past three years.

But her legacy will live on throughout the Shoalhaven, NSW, Australia and even internationally, according to husband John Hatton, the former Shoalhaven Shire President and independent State Member for the South Coast.

After researching Huskisson's history and speaking to some of its older residents about ship building, Mrs Hatton was central to establishing the Lady Denman Heritage Complex, now known as the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum.

Mr Hatton said Vera became a key influence in the way maritime history was acknowledged around the world - during visits to places including the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, and the Greenwich Maritime Museum in London.

Closer to home she was coordinator of regional museums across the South Coast, Southern Highlands and Illawarra.

To help with her work and passion for history she went to James Cook university in Townsville in the 1990s, completing a graduate diploma in community museum management, and topping the course two years in a row.

"She used that knowledge to add to the group she had formed at the Denman," Mr Hatton said.

Mrs Hatton was also on Shoalhaven Council's heritage committee, and received a healthy cities award for work in communities across Shoalhaven and Illawarra.

In 2012 Mrs Hatton was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to the museums sector through the Lady Denman Heritage Complex, and as a supporter of youth, social welfare and historical organisations in the Shoalhaven region.

After being invited by Premier Bob Carr to join the NSW Ministry for the Arts committee, Mrs Hatton fought for grants to be distributed to small museums across the state, bringing about a major change in the way things were done.

Mr Hatton said his wife was always bringing about changes, through compassion, empathy and understanding.

"She was universally loved, and effective in stealing her way into the consciousness of the community, and I'll miss her like hell," he said.

In addition Mrs Hatton was equally at home with the Inuit people as she was mixing with MPs from around the world, her husband said.

"She connected with peasants in Mexico, with indigenous people in Australia."

Mr Hatton said his wife was "very good at working with Aboriginal people".

"The Aboriginal elders absolutely worshipped Vera, because it was a very inclusive thing."

And he said a lot of initiatives came out of "that understanding and respect".

"She had this ability to melt into that situation with great empathy and understanding."

A key part of that was the ability to see not only the light in each person, but also their potential.

"She has this unique ability to identify the gems in people's personalities, show them how to polish those, and lift them in their vision of what their life could be," Mr Hatton said.

Pop on some slippers to help improve children's lives Jason Watson looks back on 43 years as a paramedic Japanese missiles launched following a day's delay Mrs Hatton also had incredible courage, her husband said.

"When I was taking on organised crime and I got involved with the McKay murder and the Mafia in Griffith and the Southern Highlands, we had some really serious death threat situations," he said.

There were even occasions when there was a police car stationed at each and of their street.

"Despite the fact I was putting myself and my family and wife at risk, she never once said 'Don't do it'," Mr Hatton said.

He recalled a time when he and his wife were travelling on a bus through Mexico, and it was pulled up by people armed with weapons.

But Mrs Hatton helped dissipate the potentially dangerous situation.

"We spoke to those people and distributed some brass kangaroos and gave them a few pesos, and this whole connection happened without language, and they pulled the logs off the bus and let us pass through."

Mr Hatton said he also once saw his wife in central Queensland squatting on the ground while a brahman bull was staring her down, snorting and scraping the ground.

"If she had moved she'd be dead, but she kept her cool," he said.

"And she kept her cool when a swarm of bees landed on her in the desert, desperate for water."

Mr Hatton said he managed to get them off by laying out damp rags.

Mr and Mrs Hatton met when they were both teaching at Nowra High School, and were married for 65 years.

Mrs Hatton will be farewell during a funeral service in the Vera Hatton Gallery in the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum, at 11.30am on Friday, July 28, followed by a wake at the Huskisson Community Centre in Dent Street.

Mr Hatton said all are welcome to attend.

Vera and John both possessed a wonderful sense of humour, albeit at times mysterious to those not in on the uncle Bertie or certain Loft family hiking and kayaking kind of  jokes …

Collection from Uncle Bertie which was promoted and preserved by Vera  

It is a very sad day for the Huskisson community with the passing of this beautiful soul 🙏🏼 Rest Peacefully Vera

John Hatton A Chance to Own Your Own Piece of Local Heritage, Your Own Connection to a Local Hero

2024 He was not born bad’: How Roger Rogerson became Australia’s most corrupt cop