Kevin Vincent "Curly" Campbell
A special Grandfather tribute written by his grandaughter, Kirsten.
Luke Bennett could feel he was falling hard for the 'fantastic' woman he had met through a mutual friend. Toni Miles was "feisty, tenacious and had an infectious attitude to life." She also had cystic fibrosis (CF).
"I said to her that I wanted to take it to the next step," and she said, "I'm telling you now, I'm not going to grow old with you."
Mr Bennett lost his beloved wife of almost 20 years on November 2. Toni Bennett Miles died aged 51, surrounded by her family, after battling CF since she was diagnosed with the genetic condition at three months of age. Her battle included two double lung transplants and countless periods of hospitalisation.
A funeral service for Ms Miles-Bennett was held on November 11, at the Parkside Funerals chapel in Burnie.
Among the many tributes since her death, Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania thanked her for working hard to raise of awareness of CF and advocating for enhanced services for Tasmanians living with the condition; and her workplace Unions Tasmania said the "much loved friend and colleague" would be missed for her "infectious laugh and huge personality."
Mr Bennett told The Mercury his wife's courage and her love for her family and friends remained steadfast through her long illness, even when she faced a second double lung transplant.
"It was harder mentally the second time around," he recalled. "She just loved her family. She could be in hospital with PICC lines and drips in and be worried about her nieces and nephews."
The grieving widower said he was now using his wife's example to help navigate the intense pain of losing her.
'At least Toni and I could talk about things. I'm grateful for that. We shared everything - I knew this day would come," he said.
"Everyone grieves differently. I feel like I'm honouring Toni. There are a few things she wanted me to do (after her death) and I've done that to the letter.
"I try and draw strength from her. I know you have to put one foot in front of the other.'"
With Mr Bennett's permission, we share the eulogy his wife helped prepare for her own funeral. It was delivered at the service by her cousin Kylie French.
My name is Kylie French, I am Toni's cousin, and I have the honour of delivering the eulogy for Toni Anne Miles-Bennett today.
In typical Toni style, she has provided me with guidelines on what is to be included in her eulogy and has undoubtedly planned the day out to make it is as easy on everyone else as she could.
So, I will commence by honouring Toni's wishes and speak about the components other life that she wanted shared, and then provide final messages from Toni to the incredibly special people in her life.
Toni Anne Miles-Bennett was born on March 14, 1971 in Devonport, Tasmania.
At only three months of age, Toni was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. However, Toni did not allow her condition to stop her from undertaking activities during her early school years and throughout high school.
Toni attended the clinic as needed and lived an active life, went to school regularly, played basketball, netball, volleyball, loved roller skating and riding her bike with Karen.
Throughout school, she also enjoyed playing the organ.
In Grade 10, at the age of fifteen, Toni undertook work experience for a week, Monday to Friday, with GP Fitzgerald's in Burnie (now known as Harris Scarfe). On the Saturday of the same week, Toni commenced her first paid employment position in the electrical department, before moving to the kitchen/stationery and sporting goods section. Toni remained employed by Fitzies for approximately four years. Toni ended her employment with the department store following a comment that was made to her by the management of the time regarding her health.
The following day, Toni secured a new position, working as a checkout operator at Roelf Vos (now Woolworths).
This was at the time in life when Toni had met Anthony. Not long afterwards, Toni relocated with Anthony to Victoria as an army spouse.
In 1991, Toni and Anthony married. They had many great times together travelling Australia in the caravan and attending the Sydney Olympics in the year 2000, prior to settling in Adelaide, South Australia. In 2003 they parted ways, yet Toni stayed in touch with the family throughout the years. Anthony, sadly passed away in 2015.
Toni went on to study youth work and volunteered at Northern Area Community and Youth Services in Daveron Park. Here she gained paid employment in 2003. Toni loved working as a youth worker. She enjoyed being involved with all the young people.
It was also in 2003 that Toni met Luke. Following several coffee dates, the friendship grew into something much more.
Toni was most upfront with Luke from the beginning. She advised Luke that she would not grow old, and that she could not offer him children, but Luke was adamant that he had found what he was looking for in life. Toni also told Luke very early in their relationship that her Mum was her number one. It was not long after, realising that she had found in Luke her absolute soulmate, that Toni reneged on this statement, and advised that Luke was in fact, her number one.
In 2006, Toni and Luke married in Penguin, Tasmania, before returning to South Australia to live their lives.
Toni's health was stable over the years. Her childhood resulted in approximately four hospital admissions per year. As Toni grew older, the hospital admissions became more frequent, as she experienced declining lung function during this time.
In 2007, the Royal Adelaide Hospital Cystic Fibrosis unit mentioned transplantation. Toni advised that she did not have to think about it, therefore the process commenced, and all the meet and greets, tests etc. started from this point onwards.
Luke requested a work transfer to Melbourne in 2008. Toni and Luke relocated to Victoria to be close to the Alfred Hospital and to family. It was not until June 30, 2008, that Toni was officially listed and waiting for her first double lung transplant under the care of the Alfred Hospital.
Toni became quite limited in what she could do with her activities and learnt how to do mosaics with Treen. She filled in many days with her new found hobby. One that she enjoyed thoroughly, and became quite skilled at.
On February 9, 2011, Toni was blessed with her first double lung transplant, the result of a family agreeing to organ donation.
Toni did extremely well and returned to Tasmania with Luke in around June/July 2011 where they settled in Hobart to continue their lives together. Toni was very connected and in touch and knew her medical routines inside out. She took things very seriously regarding her medical schedule and was not afraid to advocate for herself, and tread on toes until she was happy with the answers and outcomes she received.
Fourteen months after the transplant, Toni was diagnosed with chronic rejection, but remained stable and well for another seven years.
In 2012, Toni re-entered the workforce, after a four-year absence. This role was not in youth work, but as administration support with Unions Tasmania. Toni remained in this role until she could no longer work and retired.
Toni's goal was to work there for ten years, she knew that she should have finished earlier, but her need for purpose in life was extremely important to her. At times Toni felt that she became a heavy weight, but her work family helped, supported, and encouraged her through.
Toni loved her job, what it meant, and adored and respected her boss and friends - Jess, Ange, Marta, and Chester. Toni referred to them as her work family, including WA - Del, Mylinda, Sarah, and Pete.
Toni loved and celebrated life. She adored and loved her family and was very protective of them. Special occasions meant the world to Toni, and the camera always came out. Toni loved taking photos of just being together.
Camping and gardening were a couple of Toni's favourite things. Most of all she loved the salty air, sitting at the beach, watching the waves roll in, always writing messages in the sand.
Toni enjoyed hanging out with her nieces and nephews. She loved making them feel special, they were her absolute favourites. In most recent years, unfortunately, Toni lost contact with Shanaye, Jenique, Rhiannon and Kade. She missed you terribly and Toni wanted me to let you know, if here today, that she never ever stopped loving you, and her biggest regret was not being able to see you one last time.
Toni was a very sentimental person. She kept everything, plaster casts painted by Ben and Amy, cards they made when Toni left to travel around Australia, and now she has a beautiful collection from her great nieces and nephew, Jaxon, Ella, and Rosie. They lit up her life, but Toni hated that illness prevented her, from time to time, from hanging out with them as much as she wanted to.
Luke's family live in WA, so time was not well spent with Liam, Tavis, Holly and Lachlan due to living interstate, but Toni loved the SMS and texts she received over the past few months and was pleased she was able to express her feelings.
Toni wished that she had been able to catch up more than was possible over the years. Toni loved all of you the same and wanted to ensure that you knew that.
Toni has some favourite memories that she wanted to share. These included:
Driving around in Linda's car when they were teenagers and doing blockies around Burnie. People in other cars were flashing their lights at the girls, who thought they were pretty popular. But no, this was because Toni was driving around with no lights on - it was nothing to do with being popular as they had originally thought, so the girls thought this was quite hilarious.
Very special memories of spending time and driving with Luke in the XC. She would often laugh and say that they went to Melbourne for her second double lung transplant in 2019 and Luke returned with his car. Together they joined in the Classic Ford club runs and loved going for drives together.
Watching sunsets and sunrises, often resembled a new day for Toni. She saw them as a fresh start in relation to any issues that she was facing at the time. Toni felt as though sunsets and sunrises were a calming influence for her.
Red Hot Summer Concerts. Toni loved the weekends away with Tony and Lynette, which always came with many, many laughs and the best of memories.
Southport Getaways with Jacqui and Brendan, getting away in the caravan, enjoying singalongs and barbecues, and just hanging out was one of Toni's favourite things to do.
The Burnie 10. An enormously proud achievement for Toni was participating in and completing this event.
P & O Cruise with Luke. One of Toni's most treasured memories was going on this cruise to the Great Barrier Reef with Luke. This was a very special time for them together.
Toni was a passionate person, and she was so appreciative of the special people in her life who were on this journey with her for the duration.
Toni loved and lived for all of her family and friends, and if anybody messed with you, they had Toni to answer to. And believe it or not, Toni could be very scary at times.
To Toni's parents, Robyn, and Kim, you were her absolute rocks. Always by Toni's side, she knew that she could rely on you no matter what the situation. Toni became the person she was because of you. She loved you with the fierceness of a tiger looking out for its cubs, as if your roles in life were reversed.
Toni wanted to make the most of every minute she had to spend with you and has the most precious memories of growing up in such a loving, supportive environment. Toni absolutely treasured you both, and all that you did for her and your family.
Julie, you shared a special bond with Toni, you were her sister and best friend. Toni and Julie never took their relationship for granted. They spoke everyday - morning, afternoon, and evening. Julie was Toni's sounding board and Toni was Julie's. Julie kept Toni grounded when needed, and if Toni required a swift kick in the butt to keep going, Julie was always there to provide it.
Luke and Andrew were under no illusions when it came to this sister act. There were not any secrets between them. Toni never let Julie forget that she was the one to introduce Andrew to Julie, and that Toni had known and loved Andrew for longer than Julie had.
Andy, Toni loved you unconditionally, always had your back and only wanted the absolute best for you. I believe that she made this very clear to Jenna when you first commenced your relationship. Toni was so happy for you that you have found love and happiness with Jenna and Blake. She cherished the times you all spent together.
All of Toni's nieces and nephews were like her own children to her. She would offer them advice and made sure that they all knew that they were so loved. Toni was always there for them at any time and made sure that each one of them was okay.
Luke, you are Toni's absolute soulmate and were the light of her life. Toni cherished every single minute that you had together, and her heart hurt due to the reduced time you had to share. If there was one thing she could have wished for, it was simply more time with you.
Toni loved you more than anything in this world. She was so proud of you and appreciated everything you have done for her over the years and during your times together. Toni would often say, "Luke completes me."
It is understood that Toni has given you strict instructions on what to do and how to keep moving forward into the future. It will certainly take some adjusting, especially not hearing the phone ring at 3pm every weekday and seeing Toni's name appear on your screen.
When speaking with Toni regarding her wishes for her farewell, it was evident that she wanted people to come together and celebrate the life that she was able to live despite her health struggles. She did not want people to be upset, and so planned what was to occur to relieve others of that worry.
This demonstrates the person that Toni was. Always thinking of others, protecting those she loved, displaying (sometimes brutal) honesty, and just wanting everyone in her circle to enjoy life, laugh and love as she did.
I have no doubt that everybody here has some very special, funny and treasured memories of their time spent with Toni.
I hope that these memories remain with you always, and as you think of the person that Toni was, the smile that lit up a room, the infectious laugh that made so many people so happy, that you too can smile, reflect and soak in the sunshine and love that Toni sprinkled throughout her life.
Toni inspired so many people with her cheerful outlook, selflessness, determination, courage, and resilience.
We are all privileged to have known and loved this incredibly strong, brave lady.
Rest in peace Toni, we are all better people for having you in our lives
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