Say it loud - I'm elitist and proud

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

NOELA MORGAN 1925-2003

My mother passed away at 2PM on Saturday, 31 May 2003, at Greenwich Hospital, Sydney. My father, my sister and I were with her.

This was my eulogy for her at her funeral on Friday 6 June:

Noela was born in 1925, and grew up in Fairlight on Sydney's northern beaches.

She was the daughter of Terence O'Shaughnessy and Geraldine O'Shaughnessy (nee Foley). She clearly inherited her sense of style from her mother. There was something else she might have inherited: Geraldine's father was Larry Foley, father of Australian boxing.

Her siblings were: her elder brother Geoff, who died in March this year; her elder sister Marie; her younger sister Margo; and her youngest sister Honora, who now lives in California.

She went to Stella Maris school in Manly, then to Kincoppal-Rose Bay, then on to Sydney University for 2 years, living at Sancta Sophia College, with which she maintained close links.

She travelled around Europe in the early 1950s, and still kept in touch with her friends from that trip, many of whom are here today. (A friend to her was a friend for life.) Going through the photo albums of that trip, my sister Ann-Maree was amazed at how glamorous she and all her friends looked - you can see here [in the chapel] a photo of her at a Royal Garden Party. (A friend at the Australian High Commission had wangled them an invitation.) They may not have had much money, but they certainly didn’t look like modern backpackers!

She worked as an accountant up to her marriage to Bob in 1960. I was born in 1961, and Ann-Maree came along in 1968.

She was a parishioner of Corpus Christi, St Ives for more than 20 years. When unable to continue coming to Mass, members of the congregation visited her at home for Holy Communion. The Mass was very important to her, but her faith was a private matter – she always had an open mind, and was always approachable.

She was very social, extraverted, talkative and positive in spite of difficulties - she had a wide circle of friends, as we can see here today. And she was always well dressed! Red was her colour.

She was giving, sharing, flamboyant, loud and talked to everyone. She was always there when needed. She would spend hours and hours on the phone. She was totally honest with people, which meant that tact wasn’t always her strong point, but she never meant any harm.

Ann-Maree and Noela were very much alike, so there was sometimes conflict (often LOUD!) but they were very close.

Noela was very active. She enjoyed travel – I was living in Chicago in 1990 when Bob & Noela came to visit me. They then went on to visit my cousin Terry (her nephew and godson) at Oxford, and then went to Egypt and sailed up the Nile with the first Gulf War looming! She was a keen swimmer (she grew up near Manly beach), a keen skier into her 60s, and snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef and regularly went to aquarobics in her 70s. The doctors later told her that ‘apart from the cancer’ her health was excellent – it certainly put more time on her side, which she lived to the full.

At Geoff’s funeral in March, his son Peter reminded us of the O’Shaughnessy approach to teaching you how to swim: take you out to the end of the pier in Adelaide and throw you off. In my case, it was drag me out beyond the first line of breakers at Newport because “it’s calmer once you get out there” - and it was.

With all her activity, it was inevitable that she fell over a few times. She once broke her arm, in the most convenient place possible: right in front of Casualty at Royal North Shore Hospital, as she was visiting a friend there. But then if she wasn’t falling over while in a hurry to get somewhere, she wouldn’t have been Noela. She broke her leg in 1995 and was in a wheelchair for several months; it was thought she might never walk again, but she did.

We’ve all seen her indomitable spirit. I was with her when she saw her cancer specialist a few months ago: he told her that when she was first diagnosed with liver cancer in 2000, her life expectancy would only have been about 8 months – but here she was, 2½ years later. He said: ‘For you, we threw out the rule book’.

Noela’s condition deteriorated a few weeks ago after a fall in hospital. But she was always good humoured even in her last days. The greatest joy of her final year was my daughter, her granddaughter Rosemary, born in July 2002.

I was delighted that she lived to see Rosie and share in her first year. My greatest sadness is that Rosie will grow up not knowing Noela first hand. But we all have memories we’ll share with her.