A much-anticipated holiday to Australia to celebrate Mary Driver's retirement was tragically cut short in a horror crash in Portland, leaving a gaping hole in the lives of her family and friends.
The 56-year-old woman from the United Kingdom was about 12 months into her retirement plans to travel and care for her first grandchild, Noah, when she was killed on the Portland-Nelson Road on March 14, 2018.
Mrs Driver was seated next to her beloved husband Marcel in the rear of a hire vehicle that was waiting at roadworks when a fully-loaded B-double truck failed to stop, colliding with three stationary vehicles.
The crash killed Mrs Driver and seriously injured four others.
The driver of the log truck, Peter Buckley, 61, of Mount Gambier, was last month found guilty of culpable driving causing death.
He appeared in the County Court of Victoria on Wednesday for a plea hearing.
Mrs Driver and her husband, who was also injured in the crash, were holidaying in Australia, attending their nephew's wedding in Adelaide just days before she lost her life, Mr Driver told The Standard.
The pair met in 1978 at a Young Farmers Dance. They married eight years later and had three children together: Rebecca, Elizabeth and Jonathan.
A run-down terraced house in Burley in Wharfedale, a village in West Yorkshire, soon became their home with Mrs Driver eager to help with renovations.
A passionate early years teacher, Mrs Driver decided in 2017 that she would retire and holiday in Hong Kong and then Australia before returning home to look after her first grandchild.
"Noah was the reason Mary took early retirement," Mr Driver said.
"She knew they would have so much to offer each other and she just wanted to be a part of his life".
But Mrs Driver never returned home.
She was sorely missed at her daughter Elizabeth's wedding in October 2018, and when Rebecca gave birth to a second child, Heidi Mary, the following year.
Mr Driver said 450 people attended his wife's funeral back home in the United Kingdom, including young students.
He said a play park had since been dedicated to her life, as well as seating for storytelling at the school she spent most of her career at.
Mr Driver said his wife was a much-adored teacher who understood that not every child presented with the same abilities but did everything she could to help them succeed.
"She loved children and reading books and was looking forward to doing jigsaw puzzles and embroidery and all the things she would never have time to do as a working person," he said.
"There were a lot of things she would have done with Noah and now with Heidi if she had known of her existence.
"We had plans for the garden that we were going to do together and I've been trying to now do this on my own as a tribute to her."
Mr Driver said he missed his wife's warmth and wit every day.
"We were married for 32 years and together for 40 and we knew each other inside out," he said.
"I miss not having that person in the house that I could always talk to and walk with.
"I know how to be a dad but I can't be a mum and while I try to make sure the grandchildren get things that Mary would have bought them, I could never replicate her turn of phrase which would get us all giggling, or just her natural persona."
Mr Driver said his wife was a "full-of-life figure" who always challenged him.
"She would never let me get my own way without justifying it," he said.
"There's no challenge in my life anymore and I do miss that."
Mr Driver said his wife's family, friends, relatives and their community would miss her forever.
"She is a big part of our lives and she will be missed by so many," he said.
"Our children adored her and she had a fulfilling career in teaching and a big community spirit.
"She will be forever loved."
Mr Driver said the criminal trial process was at times "harrowing", particularly when hearing evidence from the first responders and that the trucker driver had concealed a medical condition, causing seizures.
He said he provided his victim impact statement to the court, alongside their children, but could have offered "300 if you wanted".
"We kept it to direct family but a number of people have said 'can you make sure you get it across to them that a whole village misses her too'," he said.
Former employer and friend Neville Norcross said Mrs Driver's death had a "huge impact" on the community.
"Mary mainly worked with the very youngest children and she was a wonderful teacher who was really committed to children's play and how children learnt through their imagination," he said.
"Her dedication to children was unmatched. She gave so many people a really great start to their education."
Mr Norcross said Mrs Driver's "wonderful sense of humour" was missed by everyone in the community.
"She was always making us laugh in the staff room with her funny stories," he said.
"She was great to have on the schooling board because in teaching you have your moments but she was always one to bring that sense of humour. I am personally very grateful to her for that."
Mr Norcross said that in her retirement, Mrs Driver was involved in the early stages of developing a small local park with new children's playground facilities.
"Sadly she never got to see that completed," he said.
"But the park and the children's play facilities are very much as Mary envisioned them. It's very much a testament to Mary, she was very keen that the facilities would enable the children to show their imagination."
Mr Norcross recalled a "very moving moment" in the development of the playground.
"During the process Mary said 'why have all of these swings when children just want to roll down a hill' and so we built that hill and at the official opening, we'd just declared the playground open when these two little girls ran straight to the hill and rolled down and I just said 'you were right Mary'," he said.
"It was one of those wonderful moments that I will remember forever. Mary was a great friend and a great colleague. We miss her dearly."
The truck driver will be sentenced on August 11.
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