Maree Wills lost her soulmate Gary to a stroke two years ago but knowing he would want her to keep her Liebig Street business open keeps her going.
Just talking about the love of her life, it's clear the memories of losing a man who was as funny as he was loving are still raw for Maree.
"Not only was he my husband, he was my soulmate," she said.
"He adored me. He cherished the ground I walked on. Anything I wanted he'd do for me."
So when it comes time for Rotary's annual fashion parade this year Daizy Boutique will donate the proceeds to the Stroke Foundation.
"He was a big part of the business, and I know he would want me to do this for the Stroke Foundation," she said.
"He was the silent part of the business. He enjoyed it just as much as what I do."
Maree said coming to the shop each day gave her a purpose to get up each morning.
"I'm doing it knowing that he would want me to continue on. He's with me every day. I can feel him here," she said.
Gary and Maree had been together for 17 years and married for 13 years when he passed away on August 28, 2021.
It was the weekend that the Victorian government called a snap lockdown.
Gary spent that day cleaning up the yard behind the shop and clearing the nearby alleyway before everything closed early that afternoon. "That's the kind of person he was. He had to be busy," he said.
He was fine during the weekend but at 3.53am on Monday he woke Maree up when he grabbed her leg.
"I knew straight away he was having a stroke," she said. His speech was slurred, and then he had a seizure.
Gary was first taken to Warrnambool hospital before being flown to Melbourne.
"They told me to say my goodbyes here because they didn't think we'd get into the hospital in Melbourne at all," she said.
But the hospital in Melbourne would only let a couple of people in, but because of COVID-19 isolation rules it meant that if she went she would then have to isolate on her own for two weeks.
"If his children went, at least they could stay together," she said. "That was the hardest part. That I made the decision for the kids to see him."
Even now, two years later, Maree finds it had to talk about without emotions bubbling to the surface.
"The nurses down there were absolutely fantastic and they held the phone to his ear because he could still hear and I could talk to him," she said.
Garry was just 66 when he passed away. Six weeks later they also lost his mum.
Between them, the couple have seven children and with funerals limited to just 10 people, two of Maree's daughters couldn't go, and neither could his grandchildren.
Her son-in-law who was a celebrant and had married the couple was able to do the funeral service.
Four months later on January 2, 2022, they were about to celebrate his life with an event at the racecourse with 400 family and friends.
"He always used to say that he just wanted a graveside service and have a party afterwards, and that's what we did. We had a band," she said.
Gary had worked with Southern Rural Water for 48 years overseeing dams and irrigation on farms and was also involved in getting Warrnambool's hot springs.
He had done 18 Pier to Pub swims, loved golf, fishing, gold detecting, camping in the bush and had just taken up bowls. In between lockdowns he was at the Timor Street Bowls Club helping out with working bees. "He did enjoy helping people. He had a kind heart," she said.
Every year for the AFL Grand Final, Gary - a Collingwood supporter - would host an event with friends at their home which they would use as a fundraiser called Raising the Dough.
The raised money for Peter's Project which paid for a book shelf and books for the waiting room.
Last year, in Gary's honour, they did the same thing and raised more than $1000 for the Stroke Foundation.
They were also involved in a Cabaret fundraiser for Peter's Project - for which Gary grew his beard and hair to shave - which raised $17,000.
The fashion parade, which is done in conjunction with Rotary, will be held at the Cramer Street Bowls Club on Sunday October 8 at 2pm.
Maree's daughter will model clothes from her shop and her grandaughter will model clothes from the shop next door So Little Tiny.
Tickets can be purchased at both shops.
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