Big family counts incredible loss as king of the kids passes
THE more stories people tell about Cliffy Ambrum, the more you realise the man was all about one thing - giving.
Cliffy, who passed away on November 7 aged 54, lived his life in a way that helped others. It is impossible to measure a person's goodness, but one number illustrates just how far he would go to help others.
Over 20 years, Cliffy and his wife Lillian fostered 31 children.
It sounds like an extraordinary effort, but this week his family said the man was loved by children and had a wonderful way of interacting with them.
His younger brother Gary recalls that even before Cliffy started fostering children, he had a positive influence on in the kids around him.
"He always looked after our (family's) kids, nieces and nephews," Gary said. "He just had a way with them. It was the nature of the person, the communication he had with them."
Gary said Cliffy and Lillian never had kids of their own, and that probably led to their remarkable journey fostering so many kids.
They never had the full 31 living with them, but usually had about ten at a time.
"He always knew exactly what to do (with kids)," Gary said. "Those kids learnt respect and the good things in life."
The first child taken in by Cliffy and Lillian was Michael Delta, now 20.
Looking back on his childhood, Michael said Cliffy had given him a great upbringing, especially the joy of living among so many brothers and sisters.
They never had to worry about going out to find people to hang out with, because there were so many of them to mix with.
Michael knows outsiders find it strange, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
"Other people used to say, 'How can you live in a big family?'," Michael said. "But I used to think, 'How could you live in a small family?'"
Michael admits he sometimes wonders what would have happened to his own life if Cliffy had not taken him in.
When he thinks about what might have been, he knows how lucky he is.
"He just wanted us to be good, to be a people person."
Asked which part of Cliffy's personality he would like to carry on himself, Michael had a simple answer: "Everything. He was pretty much perfect."
Sadly, Lillian passed away in 2008 and a rose garden created by Cliffy stands in her honour today.
A big group of Cliffy's extended family were at his house last week, helping out.
To a person, they painted a portrait of a man who was "loving and caring."
Eleven children aged between five and 17-years-old were in his care when he passed away and the family will band together to support them.
Cliffy's funeral will be held this Monday, November 19 at 11am at the Uniting Church on Dixon Dr, Gladstone. A wake will be held at Marley Brown Oval afterwards. All are welcome.
CLIFFY was born in Atherton and grew up as a barefoot kid in Innisfail.
His big brother Gary remembers swimming in the river and spearing fish with Cliffy and the other kids.
After he grew up, Cliffy moved around for work.
He went to Brisbane for a boiler-making apprenticeship, Western Australia to work on construction of a major rail project for the oil industry, picked fruit in Shepparton and worked in umpteen other places before he and Lillian moved to Gladstone.
Gary remembers his brother as a powerful, positive force in the family. It wasn't just the kids who flocked to him.
Every Christmas he would bring the family home and people would come from all over, looking forward to being around him.
Cliffy was a groundsman at the Gladstone Hospital for 25 years.
Tracey Noe: Having taught many of Cliffy's kids, the level of participation, devotion and individuality each of them received never ceased to amaze me . A huge family would be a massive task for anyone, but Cliffy and Lil embraced their brood with love and care. Cliffy always had a beautiful big smile wherever you saw him. However, if you had to let him know one of his children needed a gently reminder about homework or rarely, behaviour, he thanked you seriously and had a good talk to the culprit. I have never met such a friendly, caring person and doubt that God kept the mold that Cliffy was made from. People like him occur once on earth. Rest in Peace, at home with Lil.
Christine Heisner: A true gentlemen, who always had a smile and huge wave any time of the day. His family and the community will miss him very much. RIP Cliffy with your beloved wife Lillian xxoo.
Nicky Conza: I was very lucky to have met and known Cliffy. He was a wonderful, caring man who had a heart of gold, a smile that brightened the place up and laughter that would fill the air with joy. When he found out I had been very ill he came into work and gave me the most caring hug. I am going to miss you when I go to the hospital and you coming into work for our little chats and laughter. I am glad I have fond memories of you. Rest in peace my friend and be with your lovely wife. You are truly going to be missed by all that knew you.
Kylie Hall: Words can't express how much myself and many others are going to miss you. You were such a loving and caring man, always smiling and laughing. I am going to miss your smiling face at work.
Cameron Shearer: Cliffy is a huge loss to the community. I know rugby league in Gladstone will never be the same.
Katie Maree Sullivan: I will always remember the memories we shared. His smiling face and the times where he would speed up beside us in the car and beep mum to go faster, then with that cheeky smile of yours, look at mum and laugh. You had a heart of Gold Cliffy. Will always be remembered.
BringOn Summer: Cliffy and his wife were an amazing family raising all those gorgeous kids. I remember him with that big smile that would light up and the cheery voice that would say hi. My prayers are with the children and family in getting through the struggle in this difficult time.
Leeanne Lyons: Cliffy, you were alaways there encouraging and congratulating all the kids at the footy fields no matter who they were. A man that always had the time to stop for a chat whether it was about footy or having to get the kids lunch because they forgot to take it to work. Your smile is going to be missed along with the huge heart that you had. I'm sure you willl be up there looking down keeping an eye on things. RIP Cliffy.
Amoy Mallie: Clifford Ambrum was the essence of happiness. Whenever he was near he made you smile, laugh and feel better about yourself. He was a good friend to so many and I know this world will be a lesser place without him in it. Sleep peacefully now Cliffy, safe in the knowledge that you have been an inspiration to all those around you and have made the world smile. Love you brother.
Vanessa Fraser: I lived next door to Cliffy and Lil for five years and worked with Cliffy at the Gladstone Hospital for eight years. They both became my friends. I read a book by Sidney Poitier called The Measure of a Man. That was Cliffy - help anyone, love everyone, always had time for you no matter who you were. I remember a conversation I had with Michael (Lil and Cliffy's son) and he said, "If I can be sitting anywhere and people say to my son, the things they say about my dad to me, then I'll know I did right". A light has gone out in the world Cliffy and I will miss you until the end of my days. Sweet dreams Big Fella. Giv Lil a kiss for me.
Rebecca Priestley: Yourself and Lilly had the biggest hearts and always welcomed everyone with open arms, regardless of background. You always told me to come to you if I ever needed help or just needed someone to yarn to. An angel, now flying high with his beautiful wife. RIP in Cliffy, you will never be forgotten, a man of such generosity. xxoo
Dwaine "Chulkii" Maza: Cliffy Ambrum - Lord I Surrender. Cliffy said,"I don't want to be a hypocrite". Yet we talked about it, Cliffy put action to his words! What a champ!
Duane Johnson and family: Uncle Cliff I will miss your smiling face.You achieved in the sports you loved, rugby league, but you became the world champion to so many children. You've touched many lives, just as you were born to do. You would make a point to make someone happy or be there for them. Although you lost your helpmate Cliff, you still maintained the family of little champions. Thanks Cliff for your many years of friendship.
Kirsten Clark: You have brought much happiness and joy to so many people. We are blessed to have had you in our lives. I will miss you Uncle Cliffy. Rest in peace. Love Kirsten x.