This post is the text from a collective tribute to my uncle Trevor Wakefield, delivered by me at his funeral on behalf of his nieces and nephews. Trevor was the younger brother of my mother, Judy Fagg, and died in 2011 from complications due to cystic fibrosis.


My name is Dave, and I am the eldest of Trevor’s nephews and nieces. I’m speaking today on behalf of them.

Trevor had an overwhelming positive attitude to life. All of us, my cousins and I, are somewhat awed by his positive approach to life despite the challenges he faced. We remember stories of him crashing his bike and getting hypothermia in the snow – these stories usually ended with him affectionately blaming Auntie Jenny, who was his partner in crime. I also remember my admiration at the tenacity with which he pursued his saxophone-playing, his Master’s degrees and career in local government. We also admired the enormous amounts of Vegemite he managed to spread on toast without choking.

We remember his presence at family events. My cousin Anna had this to say:

I really appreciate the effort he made to be at many family functions, even when he was probably not feeling great. An example of this was last year when we were visiting when Elli, my daughter, was a tiny baby. He had been in hospital during our stay and got home the day we were leaving. He made a special effort to visit and meet his great-niece on the way home from the hospital, though his comment was ‘it’s a pity no one likes her’.

A common theme amongst us cousins is the feeling that, during Trevor’s life, we didn’t really grasp what a unique treasure, what a gift he has been to us. Maybe we would have noticed a bit more if he had complained, even once. Perhaps that’s because we viewed him as just like the rest of our Wakefield extended family – that is to say, in the words of my sister Megan, consistent, persevering, intelligent, curious about our lives, selfless, always there, witty, positive, unselfish in attitude. But on reflection, we see that Trevor possessed all these qualities despite an illness that could have led him to bitterness and selfishness. Luke had this to say:

I found out about Uncle Trevor leaving us as I was on my way back from a lunch appointment. I can’t explain it but I felt immediate sorrow mixed with great relief. I began to think about Uncle Trevor and the realization dawned on me of what a gift he has been not just to me but to all of us that have been connected to him either as family or as a friend…As I have grown older I have realized the very real physical struggle that he lived with, as a kid you have no idea. He was so unassuming but he loved all of us.

Trevor was a generous person. As a computer-deprived family, my brother Richard, along with all of us, loved playing lemmings on his computer, and he loaned out his old Holden and Kermit-green Celica willingly – though the Celica met with a tragic end a week after one of his nephews got his license.

I’m not sure what was in Trevor’s mind at 18, but I’m pretty sure he had a clear-eyed view that his life was not going to be care-free. He may not have expected to live long at all. Despite this, he threw himself into life. To his nieces and nephews he is a model of how to live life, and how to face death.

His humour is something all of us loved, and aspire to. It was fed by a steady diet of Monty Python and the Muppet Show, a father who passed his dry DNA onto Trevor and the sisters who provided plenty of ammunition. As my brother Jono says, it was “a sharp wit that made its way into most conversations.”

Today in The Age there is an article about a young man with cystic fibrosis, aged 18. He is waiting for a lung transplant, which would be performed at the Alfred Hospital, where Trevor lately spent so much time. It made me recall what I was like at 18 – so many possibilities, so much energy, so little idea of the difficulties that life might bring. I’m not sure what was in Trevor’s mind at 18, but I’m pretty sure he had a clear-eyed view that his life was not going to be care-free. He may not have expected to live long at all. Despite this, he threw himself into life. To his nieces and nephews he is a model of how to live life, and how to face death.