Thieves have stolen much more than some terracotta and porcelain garden ornaments from a Salamander Bay home – they’ve taken away one of Mary Cleary’s joys in life.
The great grandmother said some light-fingered admirers had persistently lifted items from her garden over the years, from cuttings to whole plants and the ornaments.
The final straw was the theft of pieces from a memorial to her stillborn grandson.
“When the terracotta cat and the dove went from William’s garden, it was mean,” she said.
“We wanted the kids growing up knowing they had a brother and a cousin.”
It has caused her to remove all the remaining ornaments from her much-loved front yard.
“I just can’t stand the heartache when pieces are stolen,” she said.
Mrs Cleary used to live in Merewether and bought the Cook Street property in 1977 as a weekend getaway for the family including son Anthony, who was left paralysed with a broken neck playing football at 19.
The fishing shack made way for a new, more comfortable, home in 1992. She enjoys some therapeutic time in the garden when she isn’t looking after Anthony who is now 63.
Mrs Cleary’s passion became a fascination for her 13 grandchildren, when they visited, all of whom she proudly said have gardens of their own now. One of those grandsons has this year embarked on a career in horticulture.
“I had this game with them and every time they came over they would try and find the different ornaments that ‘kept moving’,” she said.
“They would come running up, ‘we found the rabbit’ and I would ask, ‘where’?
“They would say, ‘under the plant with the purple flowers’ and I would ask ‘so what is it called’?’
“Thinking, they would say, ‘um… lavender’ so it became a learning game.”
Mrs Cleary now has nine great-grandchildren under the age of five.
“I was looking forward to playing the the game with them,” she said.
Mrs Cleary said she had nothing to say to the thief.
“You can’t educate people like that,” she said.
“[But] if they feel bad they can leave the ornaments on my step.”