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Hutch News stories

Cancer and chemical exposure

Epidemiologist Anneclaire De Roos finds possible link between contact with some persistent pollutants and risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomaFEBRUARY 2, 2006 • BY COLLEEN STEELQUIST

Dr. Anneclaire De Roos in her office
Research led by Dr. Anneclaire De Roos shows the first correlation between increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and higher blood levels of furans. Furans and dioxins form as byproducts of waste incineration and other industrial processes.Photo by Dean Forbes 

Scientists have found additional evidence that environmental exposure to specific chemicals and industrial waste byproducts may be associated with increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

By comparing blood levels of certain organochlorines, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and pesticides in 100 pairs of healthy volunteers and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients, Center researcher Dr. Anneclaire De Roos of the Public Health Sciences Division’s Epidemiology Program and colleagues found that higher levels of three specific molecular forms of PCBs were linked to an increased risk of developing cancer that starts in lymph tissue. The research appears in the Dec. 1 issue of Cancer Research.

The types of chemicals researched by DeRoos — organochlorines — contain carbon and chlorine atoms joined together. Organochlorines can be harmful because they do not break down easily and stay in the environment and in our bodies for a long time.

The study also showed a first-ever correlation between risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and higher blood levels of total dibenzofurans, or furans. Furans and dioxins form as byproducts of waste incineration and other industrial processes and are present in the environment at lower levels than PCBs.

“Previous studies have seen an association between PCBs and lymphoma, and we wanted to confirm that,” said De Roos, who is also an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington. “Finding that the furans were also associated with lymphoma was surprising.”

Lymphomas are cancers affecting cells of the lymphatic system — the network of vessels and nodes that carry infection-fighting white cells throughout the body. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and 19,000 will die from it.

Incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in U.S. white men rose to unprecedented levels during the latter half of the 20th century. However, the rates seem to be tapering off in recent years. So far, the only clear explanation for some of the rise in lymphoma cases in the 1980s is the AIDS epidemic, as there is an association between HIV and lymphoma.

Exposure to PCBs

The rise in incidence also corresponds with the same time period in which synthetic PCBs were manufactured and released into the environment in this country. PCBs were used as lubricants and coolants in electric transformers and the like because of their non-flammable properties. Although production was banned in the United States in the 1970s due to concerns about their toxicity, PCBs persist in the environment because they break down slowly. PCBs are still in use today in some developing countries.

“The residual environmental levels of PCBs have been decreasing, but as with all organochlorines, they stick around in the environment for a very long time and accumulate in the food chain, so they end up in fish and fatty foods like dairy, eggs and meat,” De Roos said. “That’s where we get most of our exposure today.”

Nonetheless, the presence of PCBs in the environment and even in the blood of humans doesn’t necessarily mean that these substances cause cancer.

De Roos said, it’s definitely hard to prove environmental exposure is a culprit. “The doses you get from the environment are low, so the relative risks are expected to be low, as well,” she said. “It is difficult to prove these associations compared to something you might be exposed to every day in high doses, like medications”.

“It might be hard to pinpoint an exact cause, but there are now several studies showing some association between PCBs and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — so the evidence is accumulating.”

While the current report adds more evidence about PCBs and cancer, it was not designed to produce the “smoking-gun” evidence that defines the molecular chain of events that instigate cancer. Also, studies of workers with high occupational exposure to PCBs have not detected higher than usual lymphoma rates, adding uncertainty to the relationship.

De Roos recently received funding to do further analysis of the study data to look at where the study participants lived and identify industrial activity around those areas.

Limiting fat and certain fish

Can people lower their exposure to environmental toxins? Yes, said De Roos. “Among the many benefits of eating a lower-fat diet, it will decrease your exposure to organochlorines,” she said. “There are also specific health advisories about limiting fish intake from certain bodies of water, like the Great Lakes.”

The study was conducted through the National Cancer Institute’s intramural research program. The Center was one of the study sites, led by principal investigator Dr. Scott Davis, head of the PHS Radiation/Environmental Exposure Studies group. Davis is also one of the paper’s co-authors.

My father Rev Don Elley

Donald Elley of Bellingen – March 19, 2020:

My mother’s death

My mother Valerie Jean Elley died on Sunday January 19, 2020, aged 91, in Auckland, New Zealand.

I’ve written a series blog articles about mum, her life and our relatives since.

This series on my father 

I wrote this series of articles after my father Rev Don Elley’s death on August 5, 2012.

Blog Article August 29, 2012

My father died several weeks ago at 1am Sunday morning.

My mother Valerie says it is fitting that dad died one hour into the Sabbath (The Christian Sabbath is Sunday) given he was a pastor.

The highlight of dad’s week, as is mum’s, was going to church. Dad was able to do this until earlier this year.

In dad’s mind, he was a pilgrim like Abraham and the Patriarchs.

In fact dad’s favourite DVDs during his last days were “The Sound of Music”, a feel good tale of the triumph of good over evil in Nazi occupied Austria, and “Abraham”, featuring Richard Harris at his very best.

My sister, Fiona wanted to continue the war theme by buying dad the epic “Battles in the Pacific in WWII” DVD. But dad wasn’t interested.

Dad was tired. He wasn’t interested in violence and human upheaval. He wanted something that made him feel good as he was slowly growing weaker.

Dad’s thoughts were on a better, more peaceful place than what this earth could offer. Dad was ready to die. Ready to pass on to the Lord who he loved.

A few weeks before dad died, my sister Fiona who was spending a lot of time with dad, asked dad if he was ready to die.

Dad’s reply was, “I have been ready for a long time”.

Dad’s decline was slow and tedious.

Dad was always unhappy to be in the old folks home, unhappy to have to be away from his home nearby and unhappy that his days of pastoral ministry were over.

Dad’s slow health decline was a like a long, slow, drawn-out meditation towards the Eternal.


Carl: The thing I like about you most Laura are your massive boobs”. Laura: “I’ve spent tens of thousands of Hillsong cash and tithes on my beautiful Australian body all for you. How could you have sex with a skinny Palestinian refugee instead of me?”

RNS Religious News Service

Exclusive: Sex abuse allegations by Carl Lentz’s former nanny put spotlight on Hillsong culture

The allegations, which Lentz denies, are the most recent chapter in a scandal that has caused turmoil in the global church.

Carl Lentz appears during an interview on Oct. 23, 2017, in New York. Lentz, the pastor from global megachurch Hillsong, who once ministered to Justin Bieber and a bevy of other celebrities and sports stars, was fired. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)Carl Lentz appears during an interview on Oct. 23, 2017, in New York. Lentz, the pastor from global megachurch Hillsong, who once ministered to Justin Bieber and a bevy of other celebrities and sports stars, was fired. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)May 31, 2021By Roxanne StoneShareTweetShare

NEW YORK (RNS) — A former Hillsong NYC staff member has come forward with allegations that the megachurch’s former pastor Carl Lentz subjected her to “bullying, abuse of power and sexual abuse” over the course of seven years as she worked as a nanny in Lentz’s home.

“I felt trapped and silenced. I also felt so ashamed and I had been told not to say anything or tell anyone,” Leona Kimes, 37, told Religion News Service via email Sunday (May 30).

In a statement published on Medium on Monday, Kimes, now a co-pastor of Hillsong’s Boston location, claimed Lentz abused her sexually on multiple occasions. “I was physically violated by his unwanted and repeated sexual touching of my intimate areas. I froze. Every time, I froze,” Kimes said in her statement.

A legal representative for Carl and his wife, Laura Lentz, responding to Kimes’ allegations, told RNS the Lentzes “vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described.”

Kimes’ allegations are the most recent chapter in a scandal that has caused turmoil in the global church founded in the 1980s by Brian and Bobbie Houston in Australia, now a multimedia empire with 130 locations around the world.

Lentz, 42, who had established Hillsong’s Manhattan church with the Houstons’ son Joel, was fired in November for “moral failings” and admitted to an adulterous affair. Soon after, Ranin Karim, a Brooklyn jewelry designer, discussed her relationship with Lentz on “Good Morning America.” The following month, comments from Brian Houston, in which he called Lentz “a narcissist,” suggested the affair was not Lentz’s only transgression.

One of several pastors GQ Magazine once described as “hypepriests” for their fashionable attire and celebrity congregants, Lentz was perhaps best known for baptizing Justin Bieber in NBA player Tyson Chandler’s bathtub. But since Lentz’s firing and subsequent move to California with his wife and children, he has been little heard from, and Hillsong has portrayed his pastorate as a one-time mistake.

RELATED: Beyond $1,000 sneakers: Carl Lentz, hype priests and the cult of celebrity

Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston. Video screengrab

Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston. Video screen grab

In December, the New York law firm Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, hired to investigate Hillsong East Coast’s leadership, recommended protocols to prevent similar situations, and Brian Houston apologized “unreservedly” for his lack of oversight.

Kimes’ statement paints a darker picture than what the church first made public after the law firm’s report, alleging unwanted sexual encounters with a subordinate whose husband was also employed by the church.

Kimes said she began working as the Lentzes’ nanny and housekeeper in 2011, spending as many as 19 hours a day at their home. Requests for foot rubs and massages escalated to Lentz sexually touching Kimes, according to her statement, including in a car and a movie theater while one or more of his children were with them. Kimes said the two never kissed and never had intercourse.

By 2016, Laura Lentz had apparently learned of the alleged behavior and Kimes said the couple addressed the situation with her. “I was blamed and silenced,” Kimes said in her statement. “I was the problem.”

Multiple times in her statement, Kimes said she blamed herself for the alleged sexual activity. “I would leave church on Sunday full of shame after hearing his sermon. I would think it was all my fault, only to get a flood of messages from him that afternoon.”

In 2017, Kimes said, the Lentzes sat down with her again to address the situation. This time, according to Kimes, “he took full responsibility for taking advantage of me and putting me in a situation that was so heavy for me.”

Lentz had considered confessing to leaders, but “after talking it through with his wife,” they decided it wasn’t necessary, according to Kimes. They told her they would establish boundaries. But, Kimes said, Lentz’s wife told her soon after “I should repent and dismissed me from all of my duties in the house.”

“I’d been fired from their family, but not from their staff. I felt like it was my fault, leaving me full of shame. I wasn’t given another role, and thought we could resolve it, though I wasn’t sure how. I just knew we were all going to keep quiet.”

Later that year, Kimes and her husband relocated to lead the Hillsong campus in Boston.

During those first years on staff for Hillsong, working in the Lentz household, Kimes said the job, which she considered her ministry, was “exhilarating but also exhausting.” She said she was responsible for “cleaning their house, running their errands and ensuring that everything within the walls of their house was as perfect as possible. It was also my responsibility to take care of the pastors’ children.”

“I rarely had time outside of work to be with friends, family or other employees,” Kimes told RNS. 

Hillsong churches have reportedly depended on volunteers to work long hours that left many burned out, with one former volunteer telling Vanity Fair they joked about “the Hillsong hangover,” after long weekends serving at the church.

Kimes said the “do whatever it takes attitude” extended to staff, who “often sacrificed personal needs for what our lead pastors needed — or even just wanted.”

Kimes and her husband, Josh Kimes, have themselves come under scrutiny for their treatment of volunteers in their Boston church. Tiffany Perez, a former volunteer there, told Business Insider that she was asked to care for the couple’s daughter for up to 25 hours a week as well as do cleaning and look after their dog, while being paid $150 a week.

Josh Kimes was hired at Hillsong NYC in 2013 as an associate pastor and “looked after youth and young adults, evening college, midweek services,” Leona Kimes told RNS. She did not tell him of the alleged sexual assaults by Lentz. “Even though I knew Josh loved me with his whole heart, I was also terrified that I would lose my family and that added to my fear,” she told RNS. She said she also worried he might lose his job.In this July 14, 2013 photo, then-pastor Carl Lentz leads a Hillsong NYC Church service at Irving Plaza in New York. With his half-shaved head, jeans and tattoos, Lentz doesn't look like the typical religious leader. But with its concert-like atmosphere and appeal to a younger demographic, his congregation, Hillsong NYC, is one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in the city. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

In this July 14, 2013, photo, then-pastor Carl Lentz leads a Hillsong NYC Church service at Irving Plaza in New York. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

Kimes said she was afraid to say anything to higher-ups at Hillsong. “It seemed to me like my pastor had ensured that there was great distance between him and any sort of accountability or communication with his oversight. So, I couldn’t even imagine reporting my experiences. We were growing so quickly that we didn’t really have the things that are supposed to protect against situations like this — Human Resources, whistleblower policies or any sort of ‘safe place’ to share concerns,” Kimes said in her statement.

Kimes finally told both her husband and Hillsong leadership on the night she found out Lentz had been fired from the church in November — “After I was safe,” she said in her statement.

Rachael Denhollander, an abuse advocate and attorney who has worked with faith organizations in addressing sexual abuse, said abuse and power dynamics in religious environments often prevent victims from taking action.

“When you have somebody who is ostensibly speaking as a spiritual authority, then it starts meshing with your beliefs, your convictions and how you define yourself,” said Denhollander. “It makes it difficult to be able to point to something and say ‘this is wrong,’ because you’ve been conditioned to believe your godliness is dependent on your submission, essentially, to what is taking place.”

Denhollander raised questions about the work culture at Hillsong. “The situation this survivor was in, the way she was employed in the home,” Denhollander said, “that raises very legitimate questions about Hillsong’s policies and procedures.” 

Those procedures have been criticized by Anna Crenshaw, an American student at Hillsong College in Sydney who was touched inappropriately by a Hillsong staffer, Jason Mays, the son of the church’s human resources chief, at a party in early 2016. Crenshaw didn’t tell Hillsong leadership about the incident for two years, but told RNS that Brian Houston initially excused Mays’ behavior, saying Mays was “just young, drunk, stupid, and in a bad situation.”

Crenshaw said Hillsong seemed to initially take her accusations seriously but was slow to take action. After Crenshaw’s father, a pastor, became involved, Hillsong reported the assault to the police in 2019. Mays pleaded guilty to indecent assault in 2020 and received two years’ probation and mandatory counseling. A church spokesperson told Vanity Fair magazine that Mays was banned from ministry for 12 months, before being reinstated in his administration role and as a volunteer singer.

Crenshaw told RNS she believes there is a cultural tendency at Hillsong “to value those ‘higher up’ or more connected.”

“Unfortunately, due to the close-knit relationships and lack of institutional accountability it may never be dealt with,” Crenshaw said. But, she added, “It is never too late to do better.”

When asked about Crenshaw, a Hillsong representative pointed to a March statement from Hillsong regarding the matter, which reads in part: “Hillsong Church vehemently denies any allegation of a culture that tolerates abuse. We take every complaint seriously and regularly demonstrate our commitment to updating our policies and procedures.”

In a statement about Leona Kimes’ allegations, provided to RNS on Friday and now live on their website, the Houstons said that “hearing Leona Kimes’ experience was very disturbing” and that they “commend her for her courage and have assured her of our utmost compassion in their (family’s) journey forward.”

“As a local church within the greater Body of Christ, we welcome this opportunity to grow in what is an increasing societal problem,” according to the Houstons’ statement.

Kimes said she has been “met with compassion, particularly by Brian and Bobbie Houston,” since she came forward, and Brian Houston said her experience “will be central to our processes.”Senior Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston in prayer at Hillsong Church. Photo courtesy Hillsong Church

Senior Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston in prayer at Hillsong Church. Photo courtesy Hillsong Church

Kimes told RNS there has not been an expectation for her to be involved in developing those processes, but she has been “welcomed to give my input if I choose.”

Hillsong has had other fires to address elsewhere. 

In January, Reed and Jess Bogard, lead pastors of the Dallas location, abruptly resignedduring a Sunday morning service. Houston later said the couple, who had served in New York with Lentz, “failed to meet the commitments and standards of Hillsong Church,” and the Dallas location has been shuttered for the foreseeable future.

RELATED: Carl Lentz and the ‘hot pastor’ problem

In April, Darnell Barrett, a pastor for the Montclair, New Jersey, Hillsong campus, resigned after sharing revealing photos of himself on Instagram stories to a group of friends that included a woman who once volunteered for him at the New Jersey church.

Denhollander hopes Hillsong will reopen an independent investigation — one that includes a waiver of attorney-client privilege and that will culminate in a public report to ensure accountability and transparency.

If an organization’s policies are not aimed at giving employees clear opportunities to report potential abuse, Denhollander said, “you run a very high likelihood of other predators in that organization that you may not be aware of.” When a system is less than transparent, she added, there is a very strong likelihood other unhealthy dynamics will come into play. 

For her part, Kimes said she is not going anywhere. “Even with all I’ve been through, I still love it. Hillsong is my church, and I will remain on staff, working toward a stronger future.”

Vanity Fair

Carl Lentz Accused of Repeated Sexual Abuse by Hillsong Pastor

A current pastor at the megachurch, who also worked as a nanny for the Lentz family, said that he threatened and belittled her when the two discussed his alleged abuse.


Image may contain Human Person Electrical Device Microphone and Crowd

Following months of scandal surrounding Hillsong, a pastor at the megachurch alleged on Monday that Carl Lentz repeatedly sexually abused her and threatened her during conversations about his conduct. Lentz, who garnered fame for himself and Hillsong via his friendships with celebrities, led the church’s locations on the East Coast until his firing in November. Leona Kimes and her husband, Josh, both worked under Lentz at Hillsong NYC and are currently pastors at Hillsong Boston. She wrote in a statement on Medium that during the seven years she spent as a nanny for Lentz and his wife, Laura, “I was subjected to manipulation, control, bullying, abuse of power, and sexual abuse.”

“I felt trapped and silenced. I also felt so ashamed and I had been told not to say anything or tell anyone,” Kimes told Religion News Service, which first reported the allegations. She wrote in her statement that “I was physically violated by his unwanted and repeated sexual touching of my intimate areas. I froze. Every time, I froze.” A legal representative for the Lentzes told RNS that the two “vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described.”

Aside from its celebrity congregants, Hillsong, which was founded in Australia in the 1980s and now has 131 locations across the world, has bolstered its visibility with a vast multimedia operation. The Grammy-winning group Hillsong Worship, one of the church’s three musical acts, recently broke the record for a Hillsong streaming debut in the U.S. Hillsong founder Brian Houston fired Lentz over what he said were “moral failures”—including, most explosively, Lentz’s cheating—and has claimed in public statements and a recent interview on the Today show that Lentz’s behavior was an aberration for the church.

In the months after Lentz’s ouster, former congregants and volunteers spoke out about scores of experiences of exploitation at the church. Vanity Fair reported in February that Jason Mays, a Hillsong staffer who is the son of the church’s head of human resources, indecently assaulted a Hillsong College student in 2016. V.F. also reported that in 2017, one volunteer at Hillsong NYC confided in another New York congregant that Lentz had been “extremely flirtatious” with her and made her feel “extremely uncomfortable,” and that Lentz had been involved in “inappropriate sexual behavior” with multiple women. Kimes’s allegations add to a growing portrait of Lentz’s alleged misconduct as well as of Hillsong’s record of abuse.

In her statement Kimes wrote that, prior to becoming a pastor in Boston, she worked in the Lentz home. During workdays that could start at 7 a.m. and end at 11 p.m., she said that responsibilities included cleaning, running errands, and childcare. Kimes wrote that Lentz initially made flirtatious and suggestive comments to her in person and over text message. In 2015, she said, he began making unwanted sexual advances on her. Lentz allegedly asked her for massages, and Kimes felt that she couldn’t decline. “Then the physical encounters escalated,” she wrote, and Lentz allegedly began sexually touching her. Kimes said in her statement that Lentz repeatedly physically violated her, including on two occasions, in a movie theater and while she was driving, with one or more of his children present.

Kimes wrote that she felt guilty about her discomfort and ashamed, and that she questioned whether anyone would believe her. “During this time, he was finishing his first book and being celebrated as he reached a new level of success,” she wrote. “His elevated status made me feel like he had all the power, and I had no voice.”

Kimes said that she twice discussed the alleged abuse with the Lentzes. She wrote that she told Carl that she would find a new job outside Hillsong, and that he responded by “asking me who would possibly hire me.” “I won’t forget how that made me feel,” Kimes wrote, “so alone, so worth absolutely nothing, so fearful of my future, so fearful for my husband’s future.” A year later, she said, Lentz told her “he took full responsibility for taking advantage of me and putting me in a situation that was so heavy for me.” According to Kimes, Lentz said that he discussed the matter with Laura and that the couple decided not to confess his conduct to church leadership. “I was told that if his reputation was ruined,” Kimes wrote, “my reputation would be too.” Later, Kimes said, Laura told her she should repent and dismissed her from her household duties, and Kimes and her husband moved to Boston to lead its Hillsong church.

Kimes said in her statement that she told her husband about the alleged abuse after she learned of Lentz’s departure from Hillsong, and she told Religion News Service that she had previously kept quiet because she feared both losing her family and Josh losing his job. She said that she was “met with compassion” when she subsequently reported her experience to leadership, “particularly by Brian and Bobbie Houston,” and that she plans to remain on staff at Hillsong “working toward a stronger future.”

After Lentz’s firing, Kimes and her husband appeared in several reports about Hillsong’s labor practices. While working for the Lentzes, V.F. reported in February, Kimes paid a former Hillsong College student $150 a week to look after her own daughter. Former congregants have said that, in part by instructing volunteers not to talk to or look at Lentz, Kimes helped maintain his status in the church. “We were growing so quickly that we didn’t really have the things that are supposed to protect against situations like this,” Kimes wrote in her statement. “Human Resources, whistleblower policies, or any sort of ‘safe place’ to share concerns.”

n 2018 a group of Hillsong volunteers emailed the Lentzes and the Houstons claiming that church staffers were engaging in unchecked sexual misconduct and bullying. In November, Houston announced an investigation of the Hillsong East Coast locations that Lentz led, and in February, he said the investigation was complete, though the results were not publicly disclosed. He added that he “wasn’t aware of the moral failures until late last year.” Houston recently tweeted that the assault by Jason Mays was a sad story and that the victim had been previously abused at her father’s church in Pennsylvania. (He later deleted the tweet and apologized for it.)

In a statement on Hillsong’s website, the Houstons said they heard about Kimes’s allegations in the course of the East Coast investigation. “We commend her for her courage and have assured her of our utmost compassion in their journey forward,” they wrote, adding, “As a church, we are committed to learning more about how to identify such trauma and bring meaningful support to anyone who has experienced it.”

Donald Elley of Bellingen:

Rex Chapman, a friend of mine and fellow Christian, died a couple of days ago. I became friends with Rex when I settled in Bellingen in 2010.

Rex would always help me if I had a problem as a learner driver farmer. Back then, I’d never driven or owned a tractor, never owned cattle and never done fencing. Never owned a farm. I went all in by buying two farms. I had quite a lot of experience helping on farms in various capacities in my youth. Rex filled in the gaps for me. Another mentor was another Bellingen local Bob Hudson. Bob is well in his eighties. I saw him yesterday balancing high on the rails of his cattle truck, loading on cattle and prodding them along.

Recently I bought a Munro Multi-sett post driver and hydraulic drill, both fencing accessories. Rex advised me and I bought the same as he’d just upgraded to.

I heard Rex was sick with lymphoma cancer a few weeks ago. I hadn’t seen him about for a while. Sometimes it’s like that. Then I heard.

I phoned Rex after hearing the news. He was the same old cherry Rex. He shared he’d been in hospital in Brisbane for three months getting chemotherapy. He said he was feeling better but weak still, couldn’t work and was in recovery.

I know lymphoma is a nasty cancer and figured it must have spread in Rex’s body, being lymphoma. I didn’t say anything of that nature.

I asked Rex what his plans were. He said, “I’ve just bought a new post driver so I’m going to get back into fencing when I recover”.

I replied, “Why don’t you do something easier like being a professional fisherman or hunter?”

Rex replied, “Oh no, I want to get back into fencing”. He sounded very optimistic about his recovery. The doctors don’t like telling people how it is with most serious illnesses these days. They don’t want to make patients feel depressed.

Rex and I were the same age. We used to talk about that. I’d often stop by Rex’s yard when I noticed he was there. Just for a chat and to say “gidday”.

I drive past Rex’s yard at least four times each day.

Rex’s Kubota 90HP tractor has been sitting there idle. His agricultural implements are nearby. So is the shed he made out of a shipping container, a steel frame and corrugated iron.

Sometimes a grandson was there. He liked to mow the lawn on Rex’s old ride-on. Rex made him a small John Deere tractor out of bits and pieces. Rex was like that. Handy. Skilled. A working man.

Rex, like Carl Foster a local garage owner who passed a way a few years ago, had a heart of gold. Rex, like Carl, a local legend, was always doing things for other people.

Rex’s family will miss Rex immensely. I offer my very sad and sincere sympathies and condolences to them. There’s not really much one can say, and yet there’s so much one can say, when someone as fine as Rex Chapman passes away.

Rex taught me how to do fencing. How to operate a post driver. He knew I’d never offer any competition to Rex who’d been doing fencing since he was a lad. His father was a fencer and taught him as a young man.

Rex was a keen hunter and recreational shooter. He liked pig hunting and fishing.

For many years Rex and his wife Helen taught a youth group at C3 Church in Coffs Harbour. In recent years they attended Bellingen Uniting Church to accompany Helen’s mother to church. She was getting older and liked the assistance and company. Rex told me these things.

Rex was pretty knock-about. Rex liked going to church and viewed one Protestant church as the same as the other. He wasn’t taken or affected by super-spirituality. He wasn’t prone to Christian evangelism in every day life but didn’t hide his Christianity either.

For many decades Rex was involved in Christian ministry in prisons in our region like in Grafton and elsewhere.

It will be very sad driving past Rex’s yard tomorrow and in the days to come.

It will be sad to see that red Kubota tractor still sitting idle with all Rex’s machinery and bits and pieces neatly stacked about in their spots.

Rex made a hydraulic wire puller for pulling barbed wire through hardwood posts out of an old truck winch. It was very heavy, chunky and pretty dangerous. I got one made by a hydraulic specialist for $5,000. I asked Rex if he wanted to buy an upgraded model like mine. Rex said he was happy with his old truck winch. Rex was thrifty and would rather make something than buy something, if possible.

At times Rex had a garlic crop and tried some commercial garlic farming on the side. He found it back-breaking bending over all day and went back to his beloved fencing.

I’m a licenced builder and a carpenter by trade. When Rex was teaching me fencing I asked what tolerance he worked to.

Rex replied, “Perfect”.

I watched Rex work. Things went up effortlessly. If a post was crooked he’d use his tractor bucket to straighten it up. Rex relied on his eye to line things up.

I realised Rex’s reply “Perfect” was a tease. Fencing is not like joinery or even house framing. It’s an approximate art. You use imperfect hardwood split posts and set them in a line. You run the wires through as evenly as possible. Hang a gate. Rex hopped in his ute and drove away each day feeling proud of the way he’s given some land-owner or farmer a new fence and gates.

Life on the land was what Rex liked. Rex would have liked to own a farm in Bellingen but he didn’t have the capital. Instead he was building up a small real estate empire of houses and rentals around Bellingen town.

Rex asked me about developing his yard. I could tell though that he was quite attached to his yard with his tractor, truck, fencing gear and a lifetime of equipment. Rex didn’t really want to develop his yard for townhouses or something.

At 63 Rex was seemingly fit and healthy. Rex had a lot of plans for the future. The illness hit Rex hard out of left field.

At 64, every day I wake up and thank God for the new day. Each new day is a miracle.

Donald Elley of Bellingen February 2020

My mother, Valerie Jean Elley, died on Sunday 19 January 2020 aged 91 in Auckland, New Zealand. Mum was born on 20 October 1928.

This blog series is in memory of my mother.


My mother and me at Mum’s rest-home in Auckland, New Zealand in 2016.

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28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 New International Version

Donald Elley of Bellingen:

Just focus on God rather than on your problems and worries. Let Him into your situation.