Mr John Honner
John Honner, a retired farmer from Narrogin, has been an incredibly generous donor to The University of Notre Dame Australia since its foundation in 1989. John supports three scholarships and each one of them funds a nursing student from regional Western Australia for the duration of their studies at the Fremantle Campus.
The scholarships are a tribute to members of John’s family and honour the students’ community service together with their personal qualities and motivation, including determination to work in the field of nursing.
The Justin John Honner Perpetual Scholarship in Nursing was established in memory of John’s son Justin who died in 1996. Justin contracted a rare form of cancer in late 1994 and sadly died two years later at the age of 19. John said he chose to give a scholarship to a nursing student at Notre Dame to honour the incredible nursing staff at the Narrogin District Hospital, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Silver Chain, who all cared for Justin during his illness. “They went beyond their job descriptions to provide Justin with such remarkable care and support,” John explained. “Justin was so courageous in fighting his cancer. He inspired everyone who came into contact with him with his bravery in the face of adversity and his cheeky sense of humour, despite every obstacle. In providing this scholarship, it is my hope that it will inspire courage and dedication in others, and to reimburse someone who one day in the future will nurse other ‘Justins’”.
Clem and Rita were John’s parents and The Clem & Rita Honner Perpetual Scholarship in Nursing was established in 2010 in their memory. Clement was born in Fremantle in 1905 where his father Richard was a policeman; when Richard retired from the police force he acquired a farming property in Dalwallinu. Born in Perth in 1909, Rita was the second child of Wilhelm and Elizabeth Klein, a pioneering family in the Wubin district. Clem and Rita became engaged on Rita’s eighteenth birthday and married in 1930; later on they moved to Narrogin with their five children and acquired a property called “Benalta”. Clem was made a Justice of the Peace in 1956 and awarded the Papal Cross in 1960. Clem and Rita retired in 1980 and their son John continued farming the property. They passed away in 1991 and 1993 respectively.
More recently John decided to also honour his maternal grandparents and since 2015 he has been supporting The Wilhelm & Elizabeth Klein Nursing Scholarship. Wilhelm’s parents came from Germany and arrived in Port Adelaide when Wilhelm was only three months old. He met Elizabeth (nee Sherlock), originally from Victoria, in Perth and they married in 1886. They lived in the Wubin district where Wilhelm farmed their land until 1950, the year the couple moved to Perth where they lived until Wilhelm died in 1963 and Elizabeth in 1983, just one day short of her 97th birthday.
Scholarship recipient Casey Tunbridge has recognised the enormous difference the financial support has made to her, both monetarily and personally.
Monetarily the scholarship has helped me purchase my textbooks, uniforms, and various instruments vital for studying nursing. It has been a relief to acquire these items without anxiety and a real blessing with my living expenses of studying away from my family home. Personally, the faith John has put in me has encouraged me when I have doubted my ability. I greatly thank him and hope that I will fulfill his expectations as a worthy recipient.
Her scholarship has made Casey more determined than ever to give back particularly to rural communities, where access to health services is limited and people living in these areas face unique challenges due to their geographic isolation.
John Honner’s generosity towards the Notre Dame community goes beyond financial assistance to Nursing students, as in 1998 he also gifted the awe-inspiring stained glass windows in the Holy Spirit Chapel on the Fremantle Campus, designed by Mr Ted Gowers and based on a brief from Rev Fr Kenney of St Thomas More College titled ‘Love, Light and Learning’.
The image of a rainbow, symbolic of God’s fidelity to His creatures, runs through the stained glass. The seven colours of the rainbow symbolise the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. Thanks to John, the continued outpouring of these gifts upon University staff, students and members of the wider community will be represented by the windows for many years to come.