Community farewells vet

June 08, 2016

Young Vet Donald McCaffrey had a love for animals throughout his life.

Dependable, professional and proud are the words those close to the late Shepparton veterinarian Doctor Donald McCaffrey used to describe him after his death last month.

A partner at the Shepparton Veterinary Clinic, Dr McCaffrey died on May 25 at age 81 following a stroke.

A father of two and grandfather of three, Dr McCaffrey was born in Melbourne in 1935, the youngest of five children.

His parents, Jack and Irene, moved the family to Brisbane during the war to be close to extended family.

There Dr McCaffrey attended St Laurence’s College in South Brisbane where he excelled academically and at sport.

After leaving school, he joined National Australia bank on the recommendation of his mother but later met a mate who was studying veterinary science and decided this was for him and enrolled at Brisbane University.

During his course Dr McCaffrey worked as a postman, frangipani picker, studding mattresses and as a shearers’ cook to subsidise his university fees.

It was there he established the University of Queensland Football Club, the ‘‘Red Lions’’ where he won a best and fairest and captained the side in 1957.

After graduating in 1960, he moved to Korumburra near Leongatha for work where he first met Jen Hammon at a wedding. She would become his wife.

‘‘I was the only bridesmaid and the best man chose to go to the football leaving me stranded and that was where I met Don,’’ Mrs McCaffrey said.

A move to Shepparton a year later for work saw Dr McCaffrey partnered with Barry Jagger where the two worked in an old veterinary practice in Edward St.

It was in Shepparton where he met Roger Key, a lifelong friend who gave a eulogy at his funeral.

‘‘I first met him in 1962 when he was courting a young nursing student at the Mooroopna hospital, he had red curly hair then and was successful and married Jen in 1964,’’ Mr Key said.

Travelling the world together Dr and Mrs McCaffrey visited Europe where they worked in various places in the United Kingdom for 18 months.

They returned to Cobram in 1966 where Dr McCaffrey worked for two years with Jim Howes.

In 1968 they moved back to Shepparton and Dr McCaffrey found work as a co-partner at Shepparton Veterinary Clinic with Barry Jagger, Peter Elsden and Mac Walker.

The couple had their first child Sarah Elizabeth in 1971 and their second Alexandra Anna in 1974.

Dr McCaffrey was on the committee and helped organise Shepparton’s Biggest Blokes’ Lunch which raised $180,000 last year for prostate cancer support and research.

Later in his life Dr McCaffrey was involved with committees for Bourchier St Primary School and was on the interim school council of the Goulburn Valley Grammar School.

He served on the school’s board when it was later established; all of his children and grandchildren have been students at the school.

Dr McCaffrey was also involved in local sports; when a year-round tennis group needed another player, they asked him to join and he ended up playing with the team for more than 30 years.

He retired from his veterinary practice in 2000 and went to TAFE to learn woodwork. The results were a plethora of coffee tables.

‘‘He didn’t miss the intricacies of a busy veterinary practice but he dearly missed the farmers, he loved them and always kept in touch,’’ Mrs McCaffrey said.

In 2009, after the Black Saturday bushfires Dr McCaffrey was among a small group who went fencing in the fire-ravaged areas around Buxton and Marysville every Wednesday for two years.

He also enjoyed gardening in his spare time.

Mr McCaffrey is survived by his wife Jen, his daughter Alexandra, and grandchildren Donald, Hugh and Elizabeth. His daughter Sarah predeceased him.

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