Tributes flow for Joe Yatras, tireless campaigner for people with disabilities and carers
TRIBUTES to the late Joe Yatras tell of a man who was passionate about his family, community and sports.
Mr Yatras, who was well known in the Shoalhaven as someone who stood up for people living with disabilities and their carers, died unexpectedly in Canberra on Thursday.
He had been involved in a motorbike accident on Sunday, June 22, and was recovering in a Canberra Hospital when he suffered a heart attack.
Mr Yatras leaves behind three children and his wife Gaynor.
Caring for one of his sons, Dylan, who has a serious disability, motivated him to stand up for other carers and parents of disabled children.
He had his own glazing business in the late 1990s and early 2000s and offered a 24-hour discount service to the aged and disabled.
After a motor vehicle accident put an end to his career he studied at TAFE and earned a diploma in Community Service Disabilities.
It was the beginning of what would become a focus for Mr Yatras and in the years that followed, politicians of every ilk were squarely in his sights.
South Coast MP Shelley Hancock was one politician who worked with Mr Yatras for many years on a variety of issues.
She told the Register she had always applauded his tenacity and respected his opinion.
She also nominated him for an Australian Citizen of the Year Award.
“The Shoalhaven has lost an icon with the passing of Joe Yatras,” Mrs Hancock said.
“He was a campaigner for people with disabilities, whether locally or across the state. Joe wasn’t past pushing politicians, bureaucrats and anyone who got in the way of a fair deal for anyone with a disability.
“He was dogmatic and forthright, caring and an absolute champion for the cause.
“He pushed for better policy outcomes and put his money where his mouth was by taking part in the committees that drove change.
“If it was unfair in Joe’s eyes, he took on the cause to make it right.”
Jarrad Horton from Nowra met Mr Yatras as a Shoalhaven junior representative soccer player.
“He was my coach about 10 years ago,” Mr Horton said.
“He was a lovely, passionate, caring man. I had difficulty socialising as a young kid and he was a great role model for me.”
Former principal of Havenlee, Julie Ashby, has memories of a man full of enthusiasm, drive and laughter.
“He was the P&C president for a number of years and did an enormous amount of work.
“He linked us with Variety, Bomaderry Lions and helped arrange a new bus for us.”
Ms Ashby said he was the driving force in gaining more respite for parents.
“He was continually in politicians’ offices. He got the then Member for Gilmore Joanna Gash to bring former Prime Minister John Howard to the school.
“The kids loved him. He would turn up not just for meetings, he was a presence in the school and always looking at ways to move us along and get things done.”
Mrs Ashby said although his son Dylan had a significant disability he took everything in his stride.
“Even the time Dylan put his mobile phone in a deep fryer to see what would happen, Joe was always positive. He had an incredible sense of humour.”
A funeral for Mr Yatras will be held at the Worrigee Chapel on Thursday, July 3 at 1.30pm.