BEAR WITH ME: Grant Cawthorne has collected hundreds of bears for his wife Heather, but she is now in care, so the bears must find a new home.
Photo: Paul Mensch

By ESTHER MACINTYRE

Some have jobs, while others sit quietly. Some are old, some are young. Many have a uniform, or international dress.

But the 650 teddy bears looking for a new home in north-west Victoria have one thing in common − eternal love.

Irymple’s Grant Cawthorne began buying his wife, Heather, teddy bears as souvenirs 25 years ago while working interstate.

“I used to do a lot of travelling, and Heather was at home, she raised the children because I was away working in construction for a long time,” he said.

“And every time I’d go somewhere different, I’d buy her a bear.”

With Heather moving into aged care, the couple are looking for teddy lovers who might adopt a few hundred bears.

“I’d like to keep them together, but if someone wants a bear for five or 10 dollars, that’d be fine,” Grant said.

The Cawthorne house is a teddy sanctuary and a collector’s dream.

Plushy bears look down from pelmets, ceramic bears guard the mantelpiece, little bears swing in hammocks from the ceiling.

A glass kitchen cabinet that would usually store plates is filled with a catalogue collection of 80 boy bears.

“In this file there’s all their info, bear one through to 80 … their names and who they are,” Grant said.

“So we’ve got Louie the Lumberjack, and then there’s a story on Louie the Lumberjack. It’s all catalogued.”

There’s a whole troupe of bears from the armed forces too, and a collection of ceramic bears by AVON tells a marriage story, not unlike their own.

“That collection there is all from AVON. You started out with a couple of bears meeting, then they get married, then they have children, then they’ve got grandchildren − the whole story is there,” Grant said.

The couple collected bears from all over Australia, and Europe.

“In the later years when I retired and we started travelling − there’s a bear from Norfolk Island, and there’s bears from Germany,” he said.

Monty was the bear that started it all − a beautiful yellow bear who now lives with Heather in her new home.

“And there’s Heather Bear,” Grant says, pointing towards an armchair where a lady bear sits, wearing checked dress and cardigan.

“So Heather sits there, and sometimes when I have a down day or something, I sit here and I talk to Heather,” he said.

Keen to adopt a teddy bear, or preferably several hundred? Contact Grant Cawthorne on 0417 858 684.