All of the names involved in the Tumut Region Business Awards belong to remarkable people, but there was one very special name attached to this year’s event – an award given in honour of Katie Clee, who passed away last year.
Katie’s parents Trish and Harvey Clee handed the Katie Clee Outstanding Manufacturing, Industrial or Trade award to winners Snowy Smash Repairs, and said that the award was a fitting tribute for a dedicated and talented professional like Katie.
“She was a workaholic, she just loved her work. She’d be so honoured,” said mum Trish Clee.
“Everything of hers had to be 120 per cent. Her and her father would be out there working at home on fencing and things like that, and he’d say ‘that’s near enough’ and she’d say ‘no, that’s not near enough, it’s got to be perfect!’ That was her.”
Katie was a graphic designer who founded Katopra Design and Print.
Her talent brought in clients from all over the country, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra – but there’s nowhere else she’d rather have been based than Tumut.
“She trained in Canberra, and she managed a business over there and was getting good money,” Trish explained.
“But she said to me, mum, I want to come home.
“I said you’re joking! What do you want to come home for? But she said no, I’m homesick. She left a really good job to start her own business here, which was a battle to start with, but she built it up.”
Katie was also involved in the Business Awards, Lanterns on the Lagoon, and the Tumut Regional Chamber of Commerce – but her beloved Katopra always came first.
“Every night when the [Chamber] meetings were on it’d get to five and she’d say ‘mum, can you go to the meeting? I just want to get this job done!’” laughed Trish.
“That was her business and her baby. She won quite a few awards over the years.”
However, along with her work ethic and business acumen, Katie is also remembered by those who knew her for her wonderful sense of humour.
“She was a person’s person. If she knew you, as soon as you came in she’d have a shot at you,” said dad Harvey.
“She’d say ‘not you again!’ Or what was the other one – ‘what, they’ve let you out of the office?’” added Trish.
“She was so customer service. I was speaking to someone who nominated her years ago, and he said she just stood out. You walked in and there was always a smile.”
Katie was plagued by chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) throughout her life, a disease of the nerves that she first encountered at fourteen. At 42, it took her life.
Her parents, and the Tumut community, miss her every day – but as Harvey put it, “life’s got to go on.”
“We have our days, but we’ve got to push on,” said Trish. “She wouldn’t want us to be any other way.”