Family and friends say goodbye to Laurie
IT WAS standing room only at Christ Church Cathedral today as hundreds gathered to say goodbye to Copmanhurst campdrafting and sporting Laurie Clifford Stephenson.
Family and friends from across the Clarence Valley and Australia gathered to pay their respects to Mr Stephenson, 84, who died on September 6.
Family friend Sandra Leslie said Mr Stephenson's life could be summed up in two sayings: "he loved, and he was loved, and he was a gentle man who was a gentleman".
Ms Leslie said Mr Stephenson was born in Grafton and lived his early life on the Barretts Creek homestead, where his father was a stockman and he began his lifelong love of horses.
After leaving Grafton High, Mr Stephenson returned to Barretts Creek and worked as a stockman, before entering National Service in 1954.
He met his future wife Elaine at a dance at Coaldale Hall, and Ms Leslie said love blossomed from that first dance. "They were married in this very church in 1959, the beginning of a wonderful partnership a journey of some 59 years," she said.
"It was a relationship centred around their love for each other and a commitment to their solid wedding vows, especially for better or worse, in sickness and in health, sharing the ups and downs of marriage with love, devotion, empathy while always going the extra mile for each other."
While Mr Stephenson was a sportsmen of note in a number of sports, it was in campdraft where he excelled. After his father introduced him to the sport through working with cattle as a stockman, Ms Leslie said Mr Stephenson soon learnt how to read the cattle and his horse's desire to work on them.
"His first campdraft success was on a grey mare, Barretts Creek Betty, bought for £20 Laurie then won the draft a few hours later, a prize pool of £25," Ms Leslie said.
"Betty and Laurie went on to win many drafts, the most prestigious the World Championship at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in 1959."
However it was Betty's foal, Blue Mystic Moon, that Mr Stephenson became a campdraft legend and Ms Leslie said many friendships were formed within the campdrafting community.
"Blue Moon Mystic, so named by Elaine, was born in their Mylneford property in 1972, and so began a journey of a fine stockman and his genuine horse, undeniable champions in the sport of campdrafting," Ms Leslie said.
"It's a record that is both extensive and impressive. 180 drafts, prize money on 117 occasions. A Warwick gold cup, a Canning Downs cutout, a Canning Downs draft, runner up twice and third twice with four outings at the World Championships of campdrafting, ABCRA novice horse of the year and open horse of the year on four occasions.
"Above all, Laurie and Mystic were mates, a mateship that lasted 34 years. Mystic would often come up to the house for an affectionate pat. Laurie always credited the horse for good runs, and blamed himself for bad ones, such was the man."
Ms Leslie said despite his battle with ill-health, Mr Stephenson was able to make stepping stones out of stumbling blocks.
"Laurie was a humble man who was never too busy to be interested in you and what you were doing, time for both you and your family, empathy for your situation and wise words of encouragement," Ms Leslie said.