Soon after Donald McKay moved to Griffith to work in his father’s furniture business in the mid-1950s, he realised the area had a problem: There was nowhere for children with special needs to be educated.
This placed an enormous strain on the parents, some of whom had to give up their jobs to look after their kids.
Families would find themselves isolated the rest of the community, but Mr Mackay was determined to change this.
While much of the focus will be on the 40th anniversary of Mr Mackay’s death will be on the mystery, the contributions he made to Griffith have left an everlasting legacy.
Mr Mackay’s friends remember him as generous man who took up a range of causes to defend the most vulnerable in society.
Rick Schwarzer, a former school principal who befriended Mr Mackay through his church, summed up the view of many by saying: “He was highly respected for his life – someone who believed that those who could help should help those in need.”
Family friend Lesley Hicks wrote in a book about Mr Mackay’s murder that he was a man who “had the compassion to recognise needs, the vision to see how they could be met and the gift of leadership to inspire others in hard work to attain these goals”.
His fight for disabled children came when he was in his early 20s.
He joined with wife Barbara to form an association concerned with the childrens’ welfare and help plan, fundraise and lobby for Kalinda, Griffith’s first school for children with disabilities, which opened in 1969.
Mr Mackay then joined the Apex organisation, a volunteer community service organisation and toured Sri Lanka to help the developing country.
The late Norm Murphy, himself a charity stalwart, once described Donald Mackay as a “great mate”.
“Don’s brother, Bill, taught me to play cricket at school, that’s how I met Don,” Mr Murphy told The Daily Advertiser on the 30th anniversary of Mr Mackay’s death.
“He was a gentleman beyond reproach, a big man with a big heart … a Liberal candidate who had the respect of everyone who knew him.
“He was a one off, Don Mackay.
“We used to have a drink together on Friday nights.
“We were all part of the FNDC, the Friday night drinking club, not that Don drank that much, it was just a chance for all of us mates to catch up.”