Eulogy presented by Mary's daughter Christine Penner at her funeral held in the Renmark Uniting Church, Renmark, South Australia on September 9th 2015
MARY EDITH MEAD Our wonderful mother and grandmother. We are missing her grandchildren Richard, Georgia and Margot today because of distance but they are all acknowledging and celebrating Mum's life today in Queensland ,Canada and France respectively. Mum was born on 31.5.1923 to Harold and Elsie Boyce. She grew up in Pennington in Adelaide and went to school at Pennington Primary School and Woodville High School until about the age of 13. Her childhood was experienced against a backdrop of a very Christian household with regular attendances at the Port Adelaide Congregational Church where her grandfather and father were both secretaries for many years. Her older brother Ken eventually became, at a young age, the organist on the magnificent pipe organ in that church for 57 years. As well as Ken, who was 2 years older, she had 2 younger siblings – Margaret, who is 9 years younger and is here with us today with her husband Bob, and Geoffrey, who is 3 years younger again. He is unable to be with us today due to ill health but is thinking of his sister in Victor Harbor. Mum had some employment before she married Dad, working as a comptometrist at Wadlow's Timber Mill at Port Adelaide. For those under 90 here today, a comptometrist was the operator of a key driven calculator said to be faster than many electronic calculators. She met Dad at church through Uncle Ken and was married on 30.1.1943 at the Port Adelaide Congregational Church. Mum was 19 – it was 42 degrees and she got a blood nose as she was leaving the house for the church. She was 45 minutes late for the service and Dad and the entire congregation thought she wasn't coming! As luck would have it, the nose was plugged, the Dr. sat in the back of the church, the ceremony took place and the marriage survived most happily for 3 weeks short of 72 years. Dad was a policeman at that time but resigned in late 1945 to move with Mum and Helen, who was then about 6 months old, to work as a roustabout on a sheep station near Clare. This was a huge move for Mum and must have taken a great deal of courage as she was entering upon a way of life of which she had no experience whatever. We are quite sure however, that she had complete faith in her relationship with Dad which would have bolstered her own innate courage. Mum was the cook for the household and Helen and I remember her stories about Mrs. Hawker hanging her huge diamond ring on a hook in the kitchen and about her never being able to serve 'twice cooked meat'! The impression was that life on the station was a bit of a challenge. In 1947 they decided to move to Renmark and, until they completed building their own house in 27th Street in about 1951-2, they lived with Dad's mother and sister Frances. We've often wondered if that was the reason why there were 10 years between Helen's arrival and mine. Mum and Auntie Frances became extremely close friends and she was devastated when Auntie Frances died of cancer in 1959 aged 42. Mum, who had experienced a very sheltered city childhood, then became a fruitgrower's wife in a country town, another dramatic change of life circumstances indeed. She took to country life like a duck to water to the extent that, in a very short time, if she had to visit the city she spent the entire time complaining about the city and saying she wanted to go home! She and Dad immediately began attending the Wilkinson Memorial Congregational Church which became a focal point of their lives. They both played tennis at the Tennis Club, near Ted Mead's house, on Bookmark Avenue. Mum was taken into the bosom of the Mead family from the beginning. In the early days she enjoyed the many extended family activities with the Bill Mead, Ted Mead, Kubank and Fenwick families. Mum was loved by Grandma Mead. After Auntie Frances' death, Grandma went to live with us until her own death in 1964. Mum was really her carer in circumstances where Grandma was in very ill health for those years, a task she carried out with great competence and compassion. Mum also began her long involvement with the Renmark Infant School Mothers' Club when Helen started school in 1950. Her involvement continued for 12 years until I finished Infant School in 1962. Towards the end of her time with that committee she was part of a group that went on a fact finding mission to Adelaide to bring back ideas for the building of the new Infant School. She often spoke of how she was disappointed that I never got to enjoy the new building. Mum's organisational skills really became well known during the1956 floods. Dad was given responsibility for managing the section of flood bank between 25th and 28th Streets. Helen was repatriated to Adelaide for about 6 months and I was sent to Auntie Ella and Uncle Frank in Berri. Mum worked hard feeding the flood bank workmen and providing accommodation for many of them as well as, by then, working hard on their own fledgling property. Her natural bent for managing became an integral part of how Mum and Dad organised their very busy lives, particularly as Dad's public life began. As I said at Dad's funeral not long ago, from 1963to 1985, Dad was often away, sometimes for long periods of time, on Dried Fruit Board business and Mum kept on keeping on. Watering got done, pruning got done, harvesting got done and so on. In addition, the house was immaculate, the garden was established, I was looked after and nothing really seemed to go wrong. It was a mark of the esteem in which Mum was held by our mainly Greek, at that time, block workers, that she was referred to as Mrs. Mary rather than Mrs. Mead or Mary. Helen eventually discovered that Greek people refer to those with whom they are familiar, but hold in high esteem, in this way. As well as keeping everything running like clockwork, Mum commenced a 40 year service with Meals on Wheels in the mid 1960s, began a long lasting commitment to the Church through committee positions and other responsibilities and, in particular, with the Ladies Guild. In 1973 she also joined the women's food and wine club – Club'73. When Dad joined Rotary in 1965, she began 4 decades of support for Dad in the club, for his roles within it and for the wider Rotary community which was recognised by her being granted a Paul Harris Fellowship. She was a wonderful hostess and frequently entertained visitors to Australia with whom Dad was meeting through the Fruit Board or Rotary. Their Visitors Book contains the names and comments of people from all the continents except Antartica! Mum was a completely supportive partner for Dad in all his ventures and that, of course, involved a great deal of socialising and, eventually, travel. She only began to travel overseas in 1973 but loved it at once. Between then and 2008, she and Dad enjoyed many magic travel adventures together to all corners of the globe often renewing acquaintances with people who had visited them in Renmark. Their latter trips were mostly cruises around the Pacific. Mum loved her garden and her birds which is why you see roses and magpies on today's Order of Service. She almost single-handedly created what eventually became an acre of home garden with an array of vegetables and beautiful flowers, including about 200 roses. That garden started as starkly bare clay with red sand topsoil. She was still turning over the ground with her fork and digging in compost in 2005. She loved nothing better than to sit with Dad just outside the back door looking at her roses and hand feeding her beloved magpies. Mum also loved cats. Things sometimes got out of hand however, which lead to Dad having to carry out mass humane cullings on occasion when the cats seemed to outnumber the mice! I think the record was about 18 cats – not, of course, house cats! In addition to cats, Mum loved chooks and ducks, particularly ducks, with which she had many long conversations. It got to the stage where we couldn't have ducks any more because she cried piteously whenever Dad went to kill one, which rather defeated the purpose of raising them! Duck was, nevertheless, just about her favourite meat – she just didn't want a personal relationship with her dinner. Mum was not much good at doing nothing and had some similarities to a Whirling Dervish. As far as she was concerned 'Idle hands make the Devil's work' or something similar which meant as kids, Helen and I had little down time – there was always something to be done. We could, however, get out of doing the dishes by suggesting we do our piano practice. Mum hated television which was not even allowed in the house until 1973. I even had to go to the Elson's to watch Man's 1st step on the Moon. On the rare occasions she did sit quietly in the later years, Mum enjoyed returning to a hobby she had developed as a young girl – needlework. Helen and I have some beautifully crafted pieces which we use regularly. She liked to read, particularly biographies, and she loved National Geographic, especially the articles about animals. Mum loved all animals and birds and did say, on occasion, that if ever she could have had a profession, she would have chosen to be a vet. Animals knew she loved them and always went to her eagerly. Helen took her fluff-ball dog, Bebba, to visit her 'Grandma' at Flora McDonald Lodge almost to the end as it helped to boost Mum's spirits. Helen remembers, when she was young, Mum talking about wishing she could have learned to play either the harp or the xylophone. She should now have no difficulty getting harp lessons, at least. Mum's capacity for work was prodigious, including boiling all the sheets before she got a washing machine, and then ironing them. The pillowcases were starched and ironed! Underwear was also ironed and Helen still irons her tea-towels because she is scared Mum is watching. Sometimes getting into bed was a challenge as the sheets were so stiff and well tucked in, you had to fight your way in. I remember having a bath in winter and getting into flannelette pyjamas that Mum had warmed in the open woodstove door. Helen remembers loving being sick because Mum let her sit in an armchair in the kitchen with a rug over her knees and her feet resting in the open warm oven. Mum loved working on the block with Dad, no matter what the task – picking fruit, driving the tractor, pruning, wrapping on, spreading on the rack, raking the fruit drying on the sisalcraft, cutting apricots, peaches, nectarines and pears. They were a real team. Our family, like so many rural families, inevitably faced separation when education and work opportunities beckoned for Helen and I. The result, of course, was that from 1973 onwards, the amount of time we could all spend together was reduced although we did so as much as possible. It meant, that although both Mum and Dad loved their grandchildren and vice versa, they were all denied the opportunity of the level of closeness in their relationships that can be achieved when grandparents are nearby and visits are regular. I am sure that that was a source of sadness for Mum an Dad and certainly for Richard, Georgia, Margot and Alex. However, the time they did spend together is remembered with great fondness. When Dad died in January this year Mum lost the love of her life and her life partner. They were 2 halves of a whole. She never really recovered and right up until the last 3 or 4 weeks of her life asked either Helen or me, from time to time, where Dad was. She either could not, or did not want to, acknowledge he was gone. She really just existed after his death although before her fall in the 1st week of July she was slowly trying to engage more in activities at Flora McDonald Lodge. We were still able to take her out regularly until just before her fall with her last outing in mid June being to Newman's Nursery at Tea Tree Gully for a Devonshire Tea. By then she was in a wheelchair. As mentioned, Mum fell and broke her pelvis on 3rd July and was bedridden from then on. She rallied a bit after the first 2 or 3 weeks but then just gradually declined. She knew who we were until the end even though she couldn't speak with us, other than the odd word, for the last 4 weeks. The care that she received at Flora McDonald and from Dr. White was wonderful and her last days were pain free. The nuns, in particular, prayed for her regularly and made sure she had communion. She attended mass regularly at the Lodge on Sundays in the months after Dad's death with the staff or volunteers taking her to the chapel in her wheelchair. As Sister Marlene commented 'Its all the same God'! Thank you for coming to show your respect for Mum today and supporting us in what is not only a sad time but a real end of an era. Mum is now with Dad where she belongs. We rather suspect that God and St. Peter will be grateful as Dad was, no doubt, at the Pearly Gates on a regular basis looking for Mum and probably asking them where his Mary was. We will inter their ashes tomorrow morning together in the plot they chose and made ready themselves. surrounded by the many friends and relatives who have gone before them and who enriched their lives. Go in peace Mum, with the knowledge of a life well lived in the eyes of God, your family, your friends and the community.
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