A celebration of the life of SwanCare matriarch, Mavis Cleaver

Found in: News | Authored by: SwanCare

30 October 1915 – 23 October 2017

Mavis Cleaver 1996

The SwanCare retirement and aged care community is celebrating the life of Mavis Cleaver who, one week shy of her 102nd birthday, passed away peacefully in her room at Kingia Care Facility on October 23, 2017. 

“Long-considered the matriarch of SwanCare, and the gracious wife of SwanCare founder Dr Richard Cleaver, Mavis was herself a true inspiration and a major contributor in shaping the wonderful community that we now enjoy here at SwanCare,” SwanCare CEO Graham Francis said. “SwanCare will be forever grateful to the humble and generous contribution that Mavis Cleaver made to this great organisation.

“Our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the Cleaver family.”

Mavis was the youngest daughter of William and Lily Painter and born in Wagin, Western Australia, the third child of pioneer farmers from South Australia.

“My early schooling was in a one teacher school at Collanilling. On most days I walked the two and a half miles there and back,” Mavis reported in a 1996 SwanCare (then known as Swan Cottage Homes) publication.

“The onset of the Depression made it impossible for me to follow my two sisters at the Methodist Ladies College in Perth, although I did spend two years at Perth Girls' School in the city. During that period we worshipped at the Forrest Park Methodist Church where I met a persistent fellow called Dick Cleaver.
“Once more back at home I bogged in with mum and dad, my two sisters and my brother. I milked cows, made butter, gathered eggs, shot parrots, classed wool and, in time, married the 'persistent fellow' in 1942.”

Richard Cleaver himself once recalled this time in a speech he made some 20 years ago: “In pre-war years, I wrote many letters to a farmer’s daughter. My first Army uniform was a Cameron Highlander’s Kilt and I wore it to the farm to impress,” he said.

“The competition down there in Wagin was fierce for several young farmers wanted the farmer’s daughter. Enlisting the assistances of the Minister’s wife – who spun a good tale about the enterprising persistent fellow called Dick – I won the battle!”

Richard and Mavis were married at the place they first met – Forrest Park Methodist Church in Mt Lawley – on Valentine’s Day in 1942. The wedding took place two days before the fall of Singapore, and with Richard being recalled for Army duties, their honeymoon was a short but sweet stay at Araluen. 

As a quiet country girl, Mavis had never anticipated the many years of politics, philanthropy and travel that she experienced alongside Richard.

A major part of Mavis’s life became a 57-year bond with SwanCare. Apart from supporting Richard, Mavis herself became directly involved in day-to-day life in the village, despite not becoming a resident herself until many years later.

Mavis Cleaver SwanCare 1960

Mavis (right) at the site of Swan Cottage Homes with resident, 1960

Mavis’s intriguingly-named “Vanishing Morning Teas” was the very first fundraising activity to take place in the village in 1961. Her home became the centre for the first morning tea at two shillings per person – this morning tea then multiplied with each lady present going on to entertain a reducing number of guests in their own homes.

With her friend Flo Mill and her sons, Mavis opened a kiosk which opened on Saturdays in the old Pine Avenue Social Centre. 

In 1983, the SwanCare Board faced “prolonged negotiations” with the ever-unassuming Mavis to name the new apartment building Mavis Cleaver Court in her honour, before a rather hesitated permission was obtained.

Richard and Mavis moved to the Village in 2000. After Richard’s death in 2006, Mavis moved into Waminda, then Tandara and then finally Kingia.

In October 2015, Mavis reached the wonderful milestone of 100 years. SwanCare, and all who were part of its community, gathered to send their sincere and heartfelt congratulations to a lady who has touched their lives in some way, shape or form. Hundreds of residents knew her smile and words of encouragement.

Mavis's involvement in SwanCare has proven beneficial for all. “Dick and I consider ourselves very fortunate with a closely knit family and so many friends, a lot of whom we have met here at the village,” said Mavis. 

Mavis and Richard Cleaver 1992

Mavis and Richard, 1992

To pay homage to Mavis on her 100th birthday, and to ensure her memory has a tangible and long-term connection with SwanCare, Mavis Cleaver Wing at Kingia’s Care Facility was officially named in her honour.

From humble beginnings back in 1960, Richard together with Mavis, set about on the creation of a long-term vision to create comfortable, affordable and safe accommodation for seniors in an environment that would foster a community spirit of togetherness, respect and caring. That same vision of Richard and Mavis still holds true today with community spirit, caring and respect the cornerstone of SwanCare’s culture and values.

To quote Richard: “Mavis, it would not have been possible without you. We all love you and thank you.”


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