Noel Gibson (left) thought this black hat would help his terminally-ill partner face the world for a much-needed night out. Ins
Noel Gibson (left) thought this black hat would help his terminally-ill partner face the world for a much-needed night out. Ins

Couples? night out turns sour for couple


NOEL Gibson will accept nothing less than a public apology from the Coffs Ex-Services Club for what the love of his life, Sue Donnelly, had to endure last week.

Sue is dying from cancer which is in her lungs, bones, liver and brain.

Conscious of how the illness and various treatments have knocked her appearance around, Sue wears a hat whenever she's in public.

Last Thursday evening, the Sandy Beach couple went to the ex-services club for a meal to celebrate Noel's 59th birthday. Noel was then going to dance classes there while Sue had planned a flutter on the pokies.

But the doorman at the rear entrance told her to remove her hat.

"It wasn't a request. To me, it was an order," Noel, a club member, said.

He told the doorman Sue was ill, but the employee said she couldn't come in wearing a hat because it was club policy.

"Sue, at this stage, had already taken her hat off. She was very, very embarrassed and she was crying," Noel said.

Sue told the doorman she was dying and had to wear the hat, but the man still insisted it was club policy and that he was simply doing his job.

"He could have been more sensitive," Noel said.

Noel said it was explained to the doorman Sue had cancer and he then said she could wear the hat if it was for medical reasons.

"I said we're not staying here, to hell with it. I didn't want to risk

any more staff members coming up and telling her to take the hat off."

Noel went to the front entrance and saw the duty manager, who said the club's policy was hats were not allowed, but if a patron had a medical reason, that was okay.

"I said the damage had already been done.

"They have humiliated Sue in public, and I want a public apology.

"Sue is very uptight. It's taken her a long time to get her self-confidence back. "She's been getting used to how she looks now compared to how she used to, and with how her body is reacting to this insidious disease.

"I'm not a prude, but I've seen women wearing provocative clothing in the club. I think they even encourage women to wear hats on Coffs Cup Day and Melbourne Cup Day.

"Sue has worn her hat in restaurants and other places and this is the first time she has ever been challenged.

"The whole thing smacks of discrimination against people who are obviously ill. If mine or Sue's religion dictated we needed to wear certain headdress or clothing, I'm sure we wouldn't have been questioned.

"It seems to me they're more interested in taking your money than letting people have a good time."

The club's service manager, Rhonda McAnally, said yesterday she was horrified a staff member had been 'so insensitive', and that Ms Donnelly should have first been asked if she was wearing the hat for medical reasons.

Mrs McAnally said the club had a standard 'no hats' policy, except for women bowlers, special days such as race days, and religious headwear, while people who were ill could 'wear anything on their head that they are comfortable with'.

She said the incident would be investigated.

n Back in June, the Sawtell Bowling Club hit the headlines when a cancer patient left in disgust after he was told he couldn't wear a beanie inside. The club pledged to review its policy.

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