THE Handburys' philanthropic gestures remain unparalleled in the state's west and probably Victoria, says Wimmera leader John Millington of Nhill.
Mr Millington spoke to the Mail-Times as tributes poured into the Hamilton home of philanthropist Helen Handbury, 75, who died at home on Monday after a brief illness.
Relatives and friends have painted a picture of Mrs Handbury as a wise, caring and generous benefactor whose long-time wish was to help others while avoiding the limelight.
Her life was also very much a partnership with husband Geoff.
Mr Millington, Wimmera Development Association member and former Wimmera 2020 chairman, said the region was fortunate to have people such as the Handburys whose love for people and community was so evident.
"What can you say about such unique people?" he said yesterday. "The other thing that impressed me about the couple was the quiet and unassuming manner in which they gave. And they were just happy to be in the background."
Many of their donations were anonymous.
"They not only gave their time but of themselves, no matter what committee," he said.
Mrs Handbury's interests included joint ownership of ACE Radio network with her husband, daughter Judy and her husband Rowly Paterson.
Mrs Handbury was the daughter of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and the late Sir Keith Murdoch and a sister to media magnate Rupert Murdoch, Ann Kantor of Melbourne and Janet Calvert-Jones, also of Melbourne.
She was mother of four - eldest son Matthew has a book publishing company in Sydney, second son Paul lives at Macedon and Paddy is at Geelong and has interests in agriculture and golf courses. Mrs Paterson is the fourth child.
The Patersons also have property at Willaura as well as ownership in ACE Radio.
There are 14 grandchildren.
Mr Paterson said his mother-in-law was an unassuming humble person sought by many for her words of wisdom. She had enjoyed involvement in many activities but shrank from the limelight.
"She worked in a quiet way and many sought her view on personal issues," he said.
Wimmera organisations to benefit from the Handburys' generosity include Horsham Regional Art Gallery, Nexus youth centre, Wimmera 2020 and Wimmera Leadership program, Wimmera Health Care Group, West Wimmera Health Service, Wesley Performing Arts Centre and Natimuk's nursing home.
Their generosity also allowed many projects in the Harrow and Hamilton areas.
Mrs Handbury was a Care Australia director, a Little Desert Flora and Fauna Foundation partner and involved in many other charities and organisations.
Mrs Handbury was born in 1929, grew up in Melbourne and was educated at Clyde at Woodend.
She met her husband in the 1940s while sailing small yachts on Port Phillip Bay. They lived at Kew before moving to Kanagulk about 30 years ago.
·Mrs Handbury's funeral service will be at Hamilton and Alexandra College at 2pm on Friday.