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Obituary: Nancy (Cooke) Green 1922-2018


Good afternoon - I am Eric - Nancy’s son - I would like to introduce two other members of Mum’s immediate family here today - my sister Lyn - and Mum’s sister our Aunty Peg Morse. Mum’s extended family - sitting over here. On behalf of all of Mum’s family I would like to thank you for attending today’s service of thanksgiving for her life.

Before I begin my account of Mum’s life, I would like to acknowledge publicly the loving care that was given to Mum over many many years by my sister Lyn and Lyn’s daughter, my niece Linda. You two were a great team in the way that supported and assisted Mum - thank you both.

I know that we describe today’s thanksgiving service as a celebration of Mum’s life - but I can’t avoid the fact of it also being an acknowledgement of deep loss. The loss of a sister, of the Matriarch of our family, of a neighbour and of a friend - Nancy Green. She is gone - and we miss her.

Mum was born Nancy Cooke on 9 April 1922 in Brisbane, the youngest of three children to Honora and Dudley Cooke. She lived in Brisbane for all of her 96 years - mostly as Nancy Green. A long life, a gracious life, a life well lived.

Well that would be the short version of of Mum’s life, but there was more to it than that. Much more.

Mum lived in many roles throughout her life - beginning as a daughter and sister, a granddaughter, a niece, schoolfriend, work colleague, wife, daughter-in-law, mother, aunt, mother-in-law, grandmother, great-grandmother, neighbour, friend and associate of many. In all of those roles she gave of herself generously and unsparingly. Like all of us, Mum was a multi-faceted person and we each knew sides of her as the person with whom we interacted - but the truth is that no one person really knew of her. So my account of her life measured here today naturally will be incomplete - so feel free to fill in the gaps that I will surely leave, from your own knowledge of her.

Growing up mostly in South Brisbane, Mum eventually attended the State High School and left at the age of 15 to start work at the Allen and Stark department store in the city. Her stories, and photos from that time, tell of a vibrant young woman enjoying life with her family and in the company of a young man, Arthur Green, who she would ultimately marry in the Anne Street Presbyterian church in September 1943 during the war. They had a brief honeymoon of one day, then he returned to his Army post. The following month he was deployed to North Queensland. Mum saved all of the money allotted from Dad’s Army pay as a deposit for a house on his return. We grew up in the that house at Banyo, with Mum as the natural centre of family activity and love.

In 1953 at the age of 31, and having been married for barely ten years, Mum became a widow with the death of her husband, our Dad, from injuries he sustained in a car accident. Obviously that was not a role that she would have asked for, nor chosen. I guess that it was not an easy task being mother and father to two young children – and made no easier by me on many occasions, I am sure. But those of you who witnessed her inner strength will not be surprised by the way she handled the raising of two children by herself. Mum never complained, never gave us the impression that we were not safe nor loved. She filled the space for two parents in our lives.

Lyn and I are forever grateful for the loving and consistent upbringing that she provided for us and for the unseen personal sacrifices that she must have made to ensure that we had everything needed as children growing up. We both feel blessed that she was our Mum.

It was during my teenage years that I noticed her capacity to manage the family home - and especially the finances.  Mum was the consummate budgeter and always had the right amount of money set aside for bills as they arrived.  She used to recount the story that when the rates notices were delivered on the same day and everyone in the street was out collecting the mail - that on one occasion a neighbour called out to Mum – “It’s alright for you Nancy – you have the rates money set aside”.  And you can be sure that she did. In this, and in so many other ways, she was always a great example to Lyn and to me.

When I turned 18, after Mum had been out of the workforce for more than 20 years, the widow’s pension ceased and she had to return to work. She did so without complaint, and with great gusto she used her organisational skills in the offices at Waltons Department store in the Valley and Grazcos Wool brokers at Albion. She found herself being a work colleague again, and gave of herself in that role until she retired.

Although she had the love of family and friends around her …without a partner Mum confronted many challenges and decisions in her life alone. But in facing those challenges, she was guided by a calm inner strength and a clear ethical compass. She could easily discern the difference between right and wrong; good and bad; just and unjust; fairness and unfairness and kindness and unkindness. Many of you will have noticed that discernment coming through in her language and decisions. Speaking of kindness, she often said to me “if only people could be kinder to each other the world would so easily be a better place”.

That might be considered by many to be a simplistic view of how to set the world to rights - but its underlying truth was always clear to Mum.

Mum belonged to many groups and organisations over her lifetime – and there is a word that describes her involvement in those groups – that word is - ‘a stalwart’ (stalward). Not a participant .. not just a member .. but always a stalward. She never sought recognition nor praise, but was always there working away, sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes out in front doing whatever was necessary for the general betterment of the group.

She was a member of the Women’s Auxillery of the RSL at Banyo, Clayfield Old Time Dancing, Older Women’s Network - I understand that she was among those who successfully sought government funding to set up the Zillmere branch, - Probus, VUE Club, Legacy and various churches (you will have to forgive me Mum - because I am sure that I have missed some organisations from that list). In those organisations, she was a tireless worker who most often ended up as Treasurer or handling the money – a role that fitted with her personality and her early career jobs as a cashier at the Allen and Stark department store and the Shell Oil Company.

Her participation in these organisations and activities underscores to me, the way in which she created a life for herself - a life that suited her interests, her principles and her beliefs. That may seem like a fundamental idea for living - to create a life for one’s self - but the example she set to doing that, was of a person with a purpose and with determination to contribute to, and enjoy, the fellowship of others.

Mum was a great organiser and one example of her organising skills happened the 1950s when the St Andrews Hospital was in its formative years and decided on a public appeal for funding. Mum was an Area Captain organising all the fundraising effort in the local area on behalf of the Banyo Presbyterian church. Lyn can remember the hive of activity in our house as collectors came and went having been allocated collection areas and been briefed by Mum - and also of Mum accounting for the collected money, as usual.

Mum took great satisfaction in the work done here at the Sandgate Uniting Church to fundraise through the Christmas lights activity. Each year, she rang and told me in great detail about how many nights the lights were on, what was sold, how many people came, how she accounted for the money from whatever stall she was working on and how much money was raised overall. I can envisage her each night counting the takings - dare I say religiously - to make sure that all of the money was in order.

She had many other talents and interests of course; she was a story-teller, a cook, a dancer, a film critic - and an astute critic at that. She was a keen judge and lover of sport especially tennis and cricket; a lover of food especially seafood; of music; and of course talking. Talking in all of its forms - conversing, chatting, debating, nattering, listening - all with a mandatory cup of tea at hand somewhere. Certainly one of Mum’s most endearing characteristics .. was that with whomever she was interacting - she was good company. Whether you were just basking in the warmth of her companionship, enjoying one of her stories, listening to some well formed opinion or comment, or whether she was just providing a listening ear when needed - Mum was always the same - caring, interested, and wise with her advice. And she held the confidences of those who trusted her with their concerns; she never gossiped or relayed stories about any person.

Her inner strength was always inspiring; her outward demeanour, calm and patient - well patient that is unless she was defending either her principles or her family against some petty bureaucracy or someone’s ill-considered action or comment. Then the fiesty side of her personality might emerge and result in one of her withering looks - or even a telling comment.

In whatever organisation or congregation in which she was involved, Mum could always be relied on to have ideas on how to address issues that presented - she was never short on discussion points and was always prepared to back her ideas with action. Sometimes, Mum would prompt discussion by saying something provocative - what I am saying is that at times she could be a bit of a ‘stirrer’. I didn’t ever notice that she was malicious or cynical in her ‘stirring’, but she certainly could be challenging when either fuelling debate or prompting discussion.

Mum loved gathering and recounting happy and helpful sayings and phrases - and I sensed that she was quietly pleased when her friend Lan compiled her most precious quotations into a small compendium on sayings on how to live a good life. But in the end, and without her even realising it, it was her own example of living a good life that had more of an impact on those around her, than did the sayings that she so enjoyed.

Mum loved nothing more that to have her family around her; to talk with them individually or simply to observe the interaction between various members of her extended household. She particularly enjoyed sharing a meal with us, often cooked by her or out at her favourite seafood cafe at Sandgate. All of her family have fond memories of her kindness, her interest in our individual endeavours, her advice, her stories, her sayings, her concerns, her questions, her visits, her sharing of ideas and recipes, her humour … and mostly of her love for us all.

In latter years she entered what I called her ‘activist’ phase. She was a formidable advocate and took it upon herself to get projects done locally, engaging directly with councils and politicians. She was particularly pleased when her persistence with the local council saw a footbridge built across a culvert near where she lived at Boondall, to provide easier pedestrian access to the local bus stop. Her efforts were not only for her personal benefit, but also for all of the bus users who lived in her complex and in nearby streets.

As she grew older and her sleeping pattern changed, she slept on and off during the night and listened to late night radio. I think it was from this source that she became informed and interested in bigger issues which she then tackled – who of us can forget her passionate opposition to genetically modified foods? She was sincere in that opposition and had a genuine concern for the health of future generations if this farming process was not regulated properly. She gave me, and probably others of you, relevant brochures and newspaper articles and made a strong argument for why and how to regulate GM food production.

Of course her interests ranged well beyond that one issue - she was especially interested in researching (without the help of the internet I might add) and learning about the healing value of foods and health-giving practices - and about health in general. As ever, she was generous and patient in the way she made suggestions and offered advice to others.

Approximately fifteen years ago Mum was beset with some health problems and finally, with her increasing frailty, she moved into the PM Village Aged Care facility at Bald Hills. It would be untrue to say that she relished that move and the attendant loss of independence. But she did there greatly enjoy the company and kinship of her fellow residents, the wonderful food, and the kindness and attentive care of the staff.

Although frailty and illness had diminished her in recent years and as her days grew dim, she remained as determined as ever to be as independent and vital as possible … however elusive those qualities may have become.

For most of her life Mum was sustained by her Christian faith through her active participation in the congregations of the Presbyterian church at Banyo, and at the Uniting churchs at Boondall and here at Sandgate. So it is fitting that it is here that the story of her life finishes. Despite her outgoing nature, Mum was a private person at heart and it was her wish that she be cremated before this service today. But the order of service and the choice of hymns and readings are all to her hand written instructions - which seems to me to be her way of being part of this gathering of her family and friends today - and also her farewell gesture to us all.

Mum - we your family - and we your friends will miss you – your kindness, your strength and your humour - but we will always remember you as vivid and vital as ever you were - in our hearts and in our memories. We are all privileged to be members of Mum’s family or to be counted as one of Nancy’s friends.

For your family Mum - you were, and always will be, our link to what is good.

We will be having a cup of tea after this service where doubtless we will chat about Mum - the things she did, the things she liked, the things she said and the life that she shared.

I think Mum would like that.

Owner/SourceEric Green
Date28 May 2018
Linked toNancy Cooke (Death)

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