When Alyson’s father dies, a surprising discovery in his garden gives her a new buzz

Dressed in a pink beekeeping outfit and boots decorated with honey bees, Alyson Shepherd inspects hives under the watchful eye of the resident magpie at her Daisy Hill home.

There are ornaments, solar lights and small boards with positive messages placed in all sorts of nooks and crannies of the garden.

It’s a far cry from the corporate existence Alyson lived just a few years ago, before her father’s sudden death left her in despair.

In May 2020, at the height of the pandemic panic, Keiron Shepherd was given a week to live.

“He had lung cancer, but it was in remission,” Alyson said.

“He had a scan and then we got a phone call from the oncologist saying the cancer had spread to his brain.

“A week after that phone call, he passed away.

Alyson with her father Keiron on her wedding day.(is given)

“I was sad and sad because my father was someone I really respected.

“He was a bit of a freak. He and I would always sing to our own tune and he would always tell me to believe in myself.”

About a year after her father’s death, Alyson, her husband Lenny Phillips and their two young children, Isla and Elliott, moved into their Daisy Hill home in Brisbane’s south.

“I was working for a large dental corporation, but COVID reset my values ​​and losing my father made me reevaluate my life,” she said.

“I was a bit lost in the corporate world and I found I needed something else.”

Alyson’s new direction came when she discovered loggers hired to remove dead stringy bark from the yard.

A rock with the Love Bee written on it.
One of the ornaments in Alison’s garden.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

“They found a 36- or 37-year-old intergenerational beehive,” Alyson said.

“Rather than spraying and mulching, they rescued the bees and then moved them into the hive.”

Painted yellow, white and pink, that hive now lives in a front yard surrounded by flowering plants.

“They have been here for a long time. I felt it was my duty to keep them here in their home.”

An old beehive with Norma May honey written on it.
The beehive is named after Alison’s grandmother. (ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

‘They brought a sense of peace’

Thus began Alison’s relationship with bees.

“The bees gave me a sense of calm,” she said.

“They brought me spirituality, a little mindfulness. They brought a sense of peace and helped me through my father’s grief.”

He now has six hives on his large property, including one with native stingless bees on a log.

“Sitting and watching the bees brought me back to where I was,” she said.

In a pink beekeeping suit, Alison looks at a sheet of beehives in 2022.
Alyson says that beekeeping has given her a sense of peace.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

“Watching them made me see the family structure of the bees in the colony, and it reminded me that family is everything.”

He named his first hive and small honey business after his 101-year-old grandmother, Norma Mae Wells.

“She is the most resilient, strong woman I know and I admire her.”

“I grew up on honey”

Norma May attributes her longevity to a daily dose of honey.

Norma May says, “If I have toast in the morning, it has honey on it and I can eat it two or three times a day. I grew up with honey.”

“Maybe that’s why I lived as long as I did.”

Golden honey was poured from a jug into a small one.
Alyson’s grandmother says her long life can be attributed to her daily dose of honey.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Alyson and her grandmother hold hands as Norma May reminisces about the days when her father and brothers went into the bush to collect honey.

Then she looks at Alison and adds with a laugh, “Your husband probably calls you honey.”

From 101-year-old Norma Mae to Alison’s newborn niece, the whole clan descended on Alison’s house for a get-together.

The only “outsider” is Keith Pasquill, Alyson’s beekeeping mentor, who makes her feel like she belongs.

An old man smiles.
Keith, 65, was an IT project manager when he became interested in bees.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Alyson believes Keith was sent by his father.

“I believe in it 100 percent,” he said.

“There was a moment when I lost myself because my father was such a great role model for me.

“Then I started with the bees and, you know, as fate would have it, along came Keith.”

Close-up of bees near the hive entrance
Alyson and Kate are now teaching as many people as possible about the important work that bees do.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Keith, 65, was a project manager in Information Technology when he became interested in bees.

“I’ve been in IT for a long time and things are changing so fast that I just wanted to give life a different focus,” Keith said.

He and Alyson met through a hobbyist beekeeping website.

“I think it’s a bond over bees. We both love bees,” she said.

Close-up of bees on a golden honeycomb sheet
Alyson and Keith bonded over bees.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Now, at markets, shows and schools, they teach as many people as possible about the important work that bees do.

“One in three mouthfuls of food depends on bees for pollination, so the more bees we can have out there, the better,” Keith said.

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