Outpouring of grief for dedicated veteran advocate
FAMILY, friends and former colleagues are mourning the death of the “heart and soul” of the North Coast Veterans community, Sheldon Maher OAM.
The dedicated veteran advocate and Far North Coast Sub-Branch, Vietnam Veterans Association president sadly passed away quietly in the early hours of Friday morning at age 72.
Allan Britt from Ballina Ex-Army Association said Mr Maher’s passing was a devastating loss for the community.
“He will be remembered for his senior advocacy and outreach work in the veteran community,” Mr Britt said.
“He was unquestionable one of the best advocates in Australia for the ex-service people to be supported by.
“He was a very dedicated man … Our thoughts and prayers are with Sheldon’s wife Cathy.”
Mr Maher was born in Tenterfield, where he lived and was educated throughout childhood, before basing himself in Lismore with his family.
After leaving school he joined the Australian public service where he worked for 38 years in various departments in rural and metropolitan areas of NSW.
His self-described interests included looking after veterans and seeking the best outcomes for men and women who have served their nation in all conflicts.
He was Far North Coast Sub-Branch, Vietnam Veterans association secretary for about 10 years before becoming president about two years ago.
Mr Maher received a Medal of the Order of Australia award on January 25, 1993 for services to veterans and the community.
It is understood he served in Vietnam in The Royal Australian Corps of Signals from January 1969 to December 1969.
Former president and now Far North Coast Sub-Branch, Vietnam Veterans Association Chaplin, Graeme Davis, was a friend of Mr Maher for 40 years.
Upon the news of Mr Maher’s passing, Mr Davis said an outpouring of grief had spread throughout the local government areas and the state.
“Sheldon has helped countless veterans on the North Coast and will be sorely missed for his dedicated and ongoing work,” Mr Davis said.
“As a veteran advocate, Sheldon was charged with the responsibility for processing veterans claims to the Department of Veteran Affairs and representing them at a higher level at a tribunal if the claim was rejected,” The Ordain Deacon of Lismore Catholic diocese said.
“He will be remembered for many things, but mostly for his assistance and professionalism in processing primary claims for veterans with war cause injuries … and helping them in gaining appropriate compensation and recognition from the Department of Veteran Affairs.”
Mr Maher’s funeral is scheduled to be held at St Carthages Cathedral in Lismore this Friday, June 19 at 10am.
While current COVID-19 restrictions means only 50 people can attend the funeral, Mr Davis said the Bishop had made requests to the Minister of Health for the number of patrons inside the cathedral be increased to up to 150.
“The Bishop has not yet received notification of the outcome of this,” he said.
Mr Davis invited the public to gather for a guard of honour during the funeral.
“I have proposed that other veterans and ex-service persons that attend the funeral will form a guard of honour on the circuit outside the cathedral,” he said.
“The mandatory distancing between each person will be adhered to.
“At this stage, the funeral is not proposed to be live-streamed.”