Aside from his policies, his tenure as prime minister and his larrikin image, Bob Hawke left an impression on many Australians through the art of letter writing.
Mr Hawke, who died on Thursday night aged 89, has been remembered by Australians as a titan of the Labor Party and a man who helped shape modern Australia.
But for Tracey Corbin-Matchett, her memory of the late prime minister is a lot more poignant.
Tracey’s grandmother died after a long battle with motor neurone disease in 1982.
At the young age of seven, she didn’t know how to grasp the fact her grandmother could “be here one day and then not here the next”.
No explanation from her parents could satisfy her. And for about a year, Tracey stewed on her questions about death and dying.
Then Mr Hawke got elected to the prime ministership in 1983.
As Tracey figured, the nation’s new leader was the perfect person to answer her questions.
“In my little kid’s head, I figured the prime minister has to be the smartest person in the country. So I thought he might be able to answer, and wrote the letter,” Tracey said.
That was in 1983. But Tracey didn’t get a reply until two years later.
“Things can take a long time,” Tracey said.
Then one day, Tracey came home from school to find a very important envelope with her name on it.
‘The things … that make life so precious to us all’
Mr Hawke had finally responded. In the letter he said:
“Thank you for writing. I am sorry that it was not possible to reply to your letter sooner.
“The question you asked me about dying is very hard to answer and I think that most of us have different ideas about why we do eventually all die.
“Some people die because of unfortunate accidents, sometimes because they become so ill that doctors are unable to help them recover.
“Perhaps when we grow very old our bodies get worn out, or certain parts break down, like parts in an old car.
“None of us can be sure of how long we will live. Because this is so I think you should try not to think too much about dying but think about all the nice things around you that make life so precious to us all.”
It was a letter Tracey would keep and treasure for many years.
Enthused by the prime minister’s correspondence, Tracey felt she had to meet Mr Hawke in person, and later did so at a children’s concert.
“Life was pretty uneventful for me and my family, so to get a letter from the prime minister was pretty special,” she said.
“I actually ran into him at a performance in 1986. I ran up to him and just said ‘Bob! Bob! How are you? I got your letter, thank you so much!’ And of course he had no idea who I was, this little 12-year-old kid.
“I got a photo with him, which I imagine was one of his press people, or one of his minders.
“It was a different day and age then, there wouldn’t be the men in black hanging around the prime minister we have today.
“It was a really special moment, it just stuck with me.
“I thought I lost the letter moving house, and I found it three or four years ago with my wedding certificate and my university degrees, it’s really important to me.
“It’s very special to have that,” Tracey said.
‘Such a beautiful eloquence’
On the night of Mr Hawke’s death, Tracey was working at the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
When the news broke, she was inundated with messages from family, friends and old colleagues asking if she was okay.
“People are messaging me as though it’s my grandpa that’s died, because they knew how big a part of my life this person is.
“I’m actually wearing my Bob Hawke t-shirt today,” she said.
“I often remark when people ask ‘if you could have anyone famous to dinner, dead or alive’, I would always say Bob Hawke. I have a strong connection to him.”
Tracey tweeted a photograph of the letter, describing it as her most treasured childhood memory. Thousands retweeted and liked the photo.
“I go back to it, I talk to people about it, because it is really important to me and it stirred up [something in] me to get this letter from the prime minister.
“It answered questions about death and dying, but it also gave me this amazing childhood memory to just hang on to, that was so positive,” she says.
Tracey, who confessed she had “cried today, a lot”, said the letter showed another side to Mr Hawke, who was often labelled a larrikin.
She said the letter showed Mr Hawke’s emotional depth as a man.
“I think we saw him as a larrikin, and he was the leader of the country for such a long time, but there was such a beautiful eloquence to that letter. It really resonated with me,” Tracey said.
“I think that it’s a different political landscape today.
“Politicians are more guarded about what they say because things are made of sound bites and they write letters that reference public policy and they try and conceal [emotion].
“I don’t think they get the opportunity to show their emotional or philosophical side like he did.
“It’s a really beautiful letter and we’re going to miss him,” she said.
Many Australians have also tweeted excerpts from letters they received from Mr Hawke while he was prime minister and afterwards, ranging in topics from uranium mining and nuclear war through to simple messages of sympathy and requests for autographs.