Kevin Vincent "Curly" Campbell
A special Grandfather tribute written by his grandaughter, Kirsten.
It's often said the world is a sadder place for the loss of a loved one.
With the sudden and tragic death of Leanne Gay Hodgkin, the world is not only a sadder place, but according to her family and friends, it will be a much tamer place without the "wild mountain woman."
Lee was born to Robyn and Nevis Hodgkin on October 30, 1979.
She died two days shy of her 43rd birthday on October 28, 2022.
Lee's brother Phil says her death came as a result of "a sudden and severe infection that spread so quickly throughout her body she was unable to fight it."
Lee grew up on the family farm in the Victorian mountains of Mitta Mitta. From the get-go, she was a bold child, open to any challenge, fearless, bright and resilient.
Throughout her short life she thumbed her nose at the rules which got in her way or tried to limit her. When the manager of a cattle station in the Northern Territory was looking for three men to work - women not allowed - she challenged him and pretty soon she was out there "mastering the horses and coordinating everything." The manager, Micky, became her partner and his children became hers.
When people think of Lee, they recall her open heartedness. Friends and family were her everything.
When her Nana Sue was sick, Lee and Micky relocated across the country to support and care for her. Micky's children speak of her fierce love for them.
Her jobs - bull catching, horse-breaking, mustering, camp drafting - read like an Indiana Jones adventure story, a Huck Finn adventure.
Lee refused to be defined by her gender, to play by anyone else's game plan. She loved fishing and wasn't interested in complex and expensive equipment, hauling in barramundi on a handline, every time.
"A bad day's fishing beats a good day's work anytime," she once said.
Lee and Micky were planning to come back to her family farm in Mitta Mitta to live and work; it was a dream cut short.
With permission of the Hodgkin family, we share some of the tributes presented at her funeral held at the Katherine Cinema on November 12.
A tribute from Lee's brother Phil Hodgkin: "She acquired the nickname 'Balls', due to her tough nature and not taking shit from anyone."
Lee is the fourth generation on the Mitta Mitta farm and the sixth generation in the Mitta Valley. She attended Mitta Mitta Primary School, then went on to Tallangatta Secondary College, where she acquired the nickname 'Balls', due to her tough nature and not taking shit from anyone, including the boys.
She was a very hands-on country girl, helping out on the farm at every opportunity. Horse riding, cattle mustering, calf rearing and general farm duties. Always willing to help. When she completed Year 12, she started a job as a nanny, up at Kali and Stewart Sullivan's place at Tooma Station under the foothills of Mt. Kosciusko, the highest mountain in Australia.
Caring for four young girls, all under the age of 5! It was a very busy time for her, especially when Kali and Stewart went overseas and Leanne was left to keep an eye on the heifers calving. She loved it up there, as she was able to ride a horse. She stayed there for over 12 months then moved on to Mansfield to work for 'Stoney's Bluff and Beyond Adventures' doing horse trail rides for tourists. Leanne did this for over 12 months.
She used to do packhorse camping adventures to some of the Victorian High Country's most famous icons. Such as Craig's Hut, made famous from the Man from Snowy River movie and The Bluff which involved leading a group of novice horse riders along a near vertical drop, for hundreds of metres, with views to die for, before setting up camp for the night.
After working there for a while, Lee became one of their right hand 'men' and a true asset to the team because she could lead trips, cook the camp meals on the open fire for the group, or drive the backup and support 4x4 through the rough and tough tracks that abounded the area. No mean feat for a 20-year-old girl. Lee had her own red Falcon ute. She decked it out with a big bullbar, closely followed by a UHF aerial half the size of a telephone pole.
She was very proud of her big, new white aerial and dropped around to her brother Phil's place to show it off. She told him to come outside and see what he could notice was different about the ute. Phil noticed it straight away, it stood out like dog's balls, but he kept quiet, and told her he didn't notice any difference to the ute at all. After a while Lee became frustrated and said. "You must notice it; it was the biggest aerial in the shop!"
In later years on a road trip together from Broome to Kinnara at night, to dodge the heat, because of the old ute suffering an overheating issue, a very unlucky bat got hit fair and square by that big, white, aerial near the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia. That bat became a mascot for the old Falcon and it stayed hung up there for months before finally falling off.
Lee brought her first dog from a pet shop down south. It was labelled as a Labrador cross rottweiler. The perfect dog for a young chick in a ute to offer good companionship and protection. Well, this dog grew up a little bit, but not much. Then it started to grow a bit longer and longer and even longer! Its legs were like little tree stumps though, and it turns out Jemma, which she named it, was a Labrador cross sausage dog!
Lee loved that little dog like her own child, but used to say how she wished her beautiful Jemma could see out the back of her ute when she tied her up in the back. When Lee headed up north, Jemma stayed back at the Mitta farm and became the perfect companion for mum and dad and was certainly spoilt rotten during her last years on the farm and would follow dad everywhere he went. Lee rang me every year to remind me of mum and dad's upcoming birthdays; who's going to remind me now!"
Friend Kim Skyring's tribute: "We spent a carefree year having some incredible adventures."
"Lee and I met in 1999 when she came to work at Stoney's in Mansfield. We quickly became friends and shared a flat together at 'Footrot Flats' for the 1999/2000 season of trail rides. We worked together on the trail rides and partied together after hours. We had adventures together on days off, like the 'great pub tour of east Gippsland'.
One memorable horse trip was taking a group of Korean VIPs on an overnight ride, where we were forced to share their expensive whiskey and danced around the fire without any music. At the end of the season, we packed up our vehicles (Lee had swapped her Barina for a ute by then) and headed north together for more adventures.
Lee was a joker and I got caught up in a few of her crazy antics. Right before we left on our trip north, we had a problem with some ducks. Some local lads had been out duck shooting and ended up at our place to show off their kill and have some beers. A few too many beers were had and we woke up to find they had left their ducks behind and gone to work. Not to worry, Lee had a plan to return them. A quick trip to town to find one of their utes, and the poor ducks (now spoiled for eating anyway) were securely stowed in every externally accessible location. And then we off on our adventure north.
For some reason Lee was in possession of a mannequin head. He became a mascot of sorts, sometimes riding shotgun in Lee's ute, sometimes taking a day-nap in a swag left unattended to mind our camp.
We would spin all sorts of stories to make life more interesting as we passed through each place. We would sometimes pretend to be singers on tour. We sang The Gambler karaoke-style and clearly we were not singers!
We eventually made it to Kunanurra with the plan of getting work there. No sooner had we started looking when Lee ran into Micky at the job's office. Immediately we were employed and off to Waterloo. We quickly found ourselves a long way from town, over flooded roads with insufficient supplies of the essentials, lollies and tampons. Lucky it was still too wet to do much work and we managed a supply run before the sugar cravings got too bad.
I'm pretty sure Lee and Micky fell in love playing Euchre in the first few nights after we arrived at Waterloo, or in any case it didn't take long. We began mustering and getting used to station life. When we arrived at Rosewood to load the first mob of cattle, we had news that the police had been there asking after us. Our best guess was that our method of returning the ducks had caught their attention back in Mansfield. They never caught up with us and the pranks didn't stop! Head stockman Alex was the victim of a mannequin in the swag prank.
We had a memorable three-day canoe trip on the Ord River. The first night was spent sleeping head to toe on a picnic table after a huge brown snake crawled head to foot down my swag while I was in it. I can't remember whose idea it was to drink a cask of wine to help us sleep. Next morning Lee capsized the canoe because she saw a spider. We righted it and kept paddling to catch up with our gear floating down the river.
Our swags were wet and with hangovers and no sleep we were happy to run into Norm who was out fishing so we got a tow the rest of the way. We had to explain our early return and the damage to the canoe to its owner. Apparently canoes are no good for towing at speed with passengers.
When the mustering finished at Waterloo we went to work at Top Springs for six weeks. We planned to head to Broome and then south before the wet season kicked in properly, but after some fun around Kununurra and fishing the Pentecost River with Mickey and Norm, Lee turned back to Waterloo and I continued my travels to the west coast. It was a short time we had together, but we were best friends in that time.
We celebrated our 21st birthdays together and spent a carefree year having some incredible adventures. Lee was one of a kind, and my memories of our time together are some of the best of my life.
A tribute from Micky Stanley, Lee's partner: "Everything we done, we had fun. I will miss her forever."
Micky first met Lee in an employment office in Kununurra. He was looking for three men, he knew the bloke working at the employment office as they went through a few men on the station. Lee was sitting in the office and promptly got up and said, 'I can do that'. Micky stated, 'Sorry there are no women allowed in the camp', and he also didn't think that they would fit in. Lee said, 'But I can shoe and ride.
`Why not', the bloke in the office said jokingly, `You know you can't discriminate against women.' (and they all had a bit of a laugh)
And that's where it all started. Micky and Lee went to Waterloo station where he was the manager. Soon enough they got together and Lee took over everything: mastering the horses, coordinating everything, lots of fun was had and fishing was always involved.
Lee and Micky decided to head to Mitta Mitta to look after the farm for a while as her parents Robyn and Nevis decided to travel. We had The Time of Our Lives.
When Robyn and Nevis came back we decided to go back up to the Territory again and ended up bull catching, horse breaking, fishing and living the life of Riley with the kids, Jodi, Myrt and Matt, along with the family and friends.
During a holiday when we went back to Mitta; we left Katherine with two pet wallabies. We camped in a motel about a day from Mitta. We got there about midnight, got a room and it had a little grassy back yard so we had a couple of beers and let the wallabies eat the grass and it was such good grass they had only ever eaten spear grass. Cut a long story short, I woke at daylight and room had turned green. I woke Lee to tell her what had happened and to get going and she said, Don't panic just tell them I've had an accident! When she opened her eyes, she said `Quick, let's get going.'
Everything we done, we had fun, I love her and will miss her forever.
A tribute from Lee's step-daughter Jodi Stanley: "Lee was not long into her relaxing shower when Matt and Rick caught a freshwater crocodile."
I am not quite sure if Lee really knew what she had gotten herself into when she got together with my dad - she had inherited three children and this never did phase her, we became her children too. We would spend our school holidays with dad and Lee on the station, in bull catching camps, or just a crazy Stanley family Christmas holiday up the Gibb River Rd.
Some of the antics that we got up to can hardly be believed when the stories are re-told. Like every family we had our ups and downs, but I can safely say up until now the good time have definitely outweighed the bad. This got me thinking about all of the amazing times we have had over the years and one of the number of stories that spring to mind.
Lee had and ability to stay calm in any situation. One time she delivered a litter of pups by hand when my Jack Russell "Tippy" had some complications. Being at Waterloo we could not just simply take her to the vets. So off Lee goes with the landline phone in hand and the cord running out of the office window. Lee is sitting on the concrete with my dog between her legs asking the vet what she should do next - Lee had recruited Myrt and Ben to be her support team (at this stage I was crying and saying she's going to die and not being much help at all).
Lee saved two puppies and Tippy that day - Ben received a nasty bite from my little dog while trying to hold her, Lee told him to stop complaining and she doctored his hand straight after saving my dog. This little dog got saved a lot of times in her lifetime and Lee played a role in many of those stories, she had a love for any animal.
One year we all ended up at Ellenbrae Station for Christmas - Lee and Aunty Toni had a full tribe in tow for Christmas that year. There was me, Myrt and Matt, Toby, Rick, Zac, Staci and Rosie and Edrie and that's not counting the adults. Lee decided to have a shower earlier in the afternoon to beat the rush - she really wanted to wash her hair in peace - but poor Lee was not long into her relaxing shower when Matt and Rick caught a freshwater crocodile on a float in the billabong and decided, right or wrong, that Lee must see the animal.
What they did was tie its mouth shut with fishing line though it was hard to see. They proceeded to drag the croc up the hill and skidded it into the shower. Poor Lee had shampoo in her hair, water going everywhere and let out a massive scream before jumping through the door, yet still managing to grab a towel to cover herself and chasing the boys (Matt and Rick) down. Lee was quite fast, they never stood a chance of out running her even if they tell you they could.
Matt got to live with Dad and Lee in Victoria for three years and Myrt and I would travel down on the school holidays. Lee showed us around the farm, introduced us to her family and saved us from dad's driving in Melbourne!
Lee took us to the snow and introduced us to the cold - Myrt and I also spent the better part of a holiday hauled up in front of the fireplace and two electric heaters at the farm in Eskdale. I was mortified when Matt's mate Jake asked me if we wanted to go swimming because it was apparently hot enough one day. Lee belly-laughed at me when I told her my toe went blue when I tried to put my foot in the creek behind the Mitta pub, "No water in the territory is that cold!"
I could actually write so many funny/lovely stories about Lee and our family - but she was there in the hard times as well. When Nana Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer dad and Lee moved back to Katherine and cared for the old girl. This meant that dad and Lee were close enough to visit most afternoons and is when she convinced dad to take up cleaning to support themselves while they looked after Nana.
Nana Sue's passing and losing Lee is up there with one of the hardest things I have been through. Lee supported our whole family and helped organise everything with Pam to make things easier for us when Nana Sue passed away, because she was just that sort of person, and now we don't have you here there has been a huge hole left in my heart.
Lee you're one that knows this, but I have never been great with words, but thank you for being you and bringing such good times to me and our whole family. I love you and am going to miss you!
Matt Stanley, Lee's step-son, pays tribute: "You were a wild mountain woman with a great heart for not only people and your family, but the animals and nature you passed on your journey."
Over the 23 years of knowing you Lee, we've shared a lot of great times and memories. I cannot thank you enough for all the times you've been there for me and supported me. You've also brought so much joy to the family. You lived life to the fullest, whether it be fishing, or horse riding, or catching bulls with dad, or shaming a few of the blokes in the camps that you could drive the old trucks better than them.
I'll never forget the days we lived in Mitta. I truly appreciate you taking me on that journey. You were a wild mountain woman with a great heart for not only people and your family but the animals and nature you passed on your journey. You will be missed but definitely remembered as a mountain woman that kept ever ringer from the Top End on their toes; but most of all, you were a true cowgirl.
Goodbye Lee, I love you.
Friend Sammy Smith pays tribute to Lee: "Your words, `I love your guts, your big toe, your kneecap and your kidney fat', will remain with me forever."
Life brought Lee and Micky back to Katherine where Lee started a cleaning business and sweated Mickey on the blower, vacuum and mop. They were an inseparable team that always worked, played and lived everything together.
Lee was a joker and trickster - hiding collectable toys, and items in people's houses, cupboards and fridges, stuffing watches with alarms set under people's car seats and placing For Sale signs in people's driveways.
Lee only fished with a handline; though everyone needs to be alert and, on their toes, because once Lee baited up her hook, it was routine to swing it around her head like a lasso, to get it out into the river as far she could.
A fishing trip that will never be forgotten: 48 hours on the Katherine River. Lee's handline takes off and she was off sprinting down the sandy bank, though she didn't see a rock partially covered by sand and trips over and busted open her knee. That afternoon Micky was luring and caught his forearm with the trebles, which required some thought to extract it with a pair of fencing pliers! As the evening approached, Keith's line gets hit by something and he's down the sandy bank and kicks the same rock that busted Lees knee and breaks his toe! Sammy came out fairly unscathed with only a splinter! Just a standard weekend fishing, catching barra, brim and catfish with mates.
Lee loved animals and they were attracted to her. Everywhere she went there were always animals in tow - emus, dogs, pigs, goose, ducks, horses, calves, wallabies, chocks and donkeys. Lee constantly spoke about the farm in Mitta Mitta, the beautiful landscape and valuable property; proudly saying how the weaners were pulled off their mothers at around 300kg and how the cattle often topped the sales.
Your kind nature, infectious smile, contagious laugh, embracing hug along with the words "I love your guts, your big toe, your kneecap and your kidney fat" will remain with me forever.
Your Happy Monday, Happy hump day and Happy Friday texts will be missed by many. Rest in peace my beautiful friend; you will forever be in our hearts.
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