A Brisbane woman has set up a new café in Western Australia in memory of her partner, a truck driver who passed away in 2018 – and she is currently catering for 30 or 40 truckies stranded by bush fires.
Claire Woolmer and her partner Laurence Latham had planned to retire together just months before Latham tragically died of leukemia.
Woolmer told Big Rigs: “We were due to retire in October 2018 and we had planned to head to WA to do a bit of travelling.
“Then we talked about buying a roadhouse or café and not doing much in our retirement. But he died suddenly that July.
“He had leukemia, he had gone into remission but it came back.”
Devastated, Woolmer still decided to go to Western Australia and make their dream a reality.
“I said to him, ‘I’ll keep going.’
“I’ll do what we wanted to do, and keep the dream going.”
Woolmer had her eye on a café on Shenton St in Menzies, and had tried to buy it previously but the owner didn’t want to sell.
“I just sat back and waited and eventually she pulled the pin on it and I won the tender on it.”
After putting some love and care into the café, Woolmer reopened it as Laurie’s Diner a month ago – and it’s been a huge success so far.
At the moment, the café is catering for 30 or 40 truckies who are stranded in Menzies due to fires.
“They closed the highway on Monday and it looks like they might not open it until Friday,” she said.
“There are about 30 or 40 trucks stuck here at the moment.
“When the roads got closed I actually called the truckies that were stuck up the road and said, ‘Come on down. I’m open, I’ll stay open all night to get you all fed if I have to.’”
Woolmer prides herself on being “old school” in the fare she offers truckies, from a big breakfast to a roast dinner on a Sunday evening.
“It’s like a truck stop meal. I give them a piece of bread and butter with every meal,” she added.
She said that her partner, who was a truck driver for 45 years, always wished there were more places for truckies to just pull up and have a chat with other drivers.
She chose Menzies because of its isolated location, as well as its beautiful sunsets.
“Laurie spent most of his life on the road, working for different companies and driving all over Australia.
“He always said he wanted to see WA by daylight. He’d seen everything by night, being a truck driver.
“He loved sunsets and sunrises and they are just beautiful here, he would have loved them.
“It’s 150km either direction to any towns so this is a good truck stop off point.
“Laurie would be happy, knowing there is a truck bay with showers and toilets close by, should the need arise.”
Woolmer said her late partner always took great pride in his work and his truck.
“He actually made Big Rigs one year for his truck being so clean. It was called The Eliminator.
“He was dead cranky if he couldn’t wash the truck, he used to wash it four times a week. It always sparkled.”
She is still nursing a broken heart over his loss and says her grief will never go away.
“He was a good man. There were 500 people at his funeral, they came from all over Australia for it.
“He was a very well-liked man, and he’d do anything for you.
“I think his loss will hurt forever more.”