Noreen Picone Eulogy 25th Janaury 2017
Good afternoon all, thank you for coming to this celebration of the life of Noreen.
Firstly, a little bit of history,
Born in Rainbow on the 21st of March 1923, she was the 2nd youngest of 13 children born to Grandma Walch and her two husbands - George Grigg and after his death; to Mathew Urban Walch, who incidentally must have been a real tyro taking on grandma and her then 10 children.
In 1924, after the family house burnt down, they left Rainbow and moved to a Soldier Settlement farm in Baring where the kids went to school. They all walked or rode horses across the paddock to school although mum said they often sent her younger brother Matty, off first before walking over with her older brother Neil.
She often described how she helped out on the farm; milking cows, feeding lambs, pigs, chooks and turkeys, she would also help her dad with droving the sheep. She had a love for horses and learnt to ride at a very young age.
Mum had a very basic childhood but she would often describe it as being very carefree and happy. They would always have food to eat and a roof over their heads and that was all that they needed. She was raised with a great work ethic and got annoyed when she heard people pitying the life of country children as if they had missed out on something. Speaking from my own experience I can say that country raised kids become very independent and possess a wide range of practical knowledge and skills.
At 18 she ventured to the 'big smoke' (Melbourne) with her Dad to the Anzac Day March and she stayed for the next 12 months. She then went to Horsham to train as a nurse at the Wimmera Base Hospital. It was also whilst in Horsham that she met her future husband Roy who was in the Air Force stationed nearby at Nhill. After passing her final exams she returned to Melbourne to the Freemasons Hospital where she carried out a wide range of nursing duties, one of which was as a theatre sister working alongside famed WW 2 doctor and Changi survivor Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop who wrote the following reference for mum when she left the Freemasons hospital and moved back to Patchewollock after marrying Roy in 1950.
"It is with pleasure that I testify to the fact that I have known Sister N M Walch for over 3 years whilst she has been employed at the Freemasons, and I have a very high opinion of her character and ability. During this time, she has nursed a number of surgical patients of mine in a most capable fashion. She has a bright manner, a good personality, is most energetic and has always carried out her duties most conscientiously. She is thoughtful and considerate, and has worked in happy co-operation with patients and staff. I can therefore confidently recommend her for any position involving general and surgical nursing. Signed E E Dunlop"
Mums novel way of describing those days was - "Weary used to cut off the legs of the returned injured soldiers and I used to catch them"
As mentioned earlier Roy and Noreen were married in Hopetoun on the 28th of January 1950 and their first child, Jane, was born in December that year. Following Jane, they had 7 more children; Ian, Phillip, Alan, twins Judi and Andrew, Dave and Barb. For 16 years, Mum was either pregnant or feeding, all the while carrying out her nursing duties in the community – not a bad effort.
As there was no doctor in Patche, she worked closely with Dr Pete in Hopetoun who had great confidence in Noreen's ability to administer follow-up treatment that he had prescribed, our refrigerator at home whilst full of food for 8 kids always had room for penicillin syringes and the like, this made her the 'go to' health professional in our town. Our kitchen became a surgery on many occasions with mum treating many locals. I guess it's not until you get older you realise the importance of having someone like Mum in the community. She dealt with all sorts of major and minor health issues, road and farm accidents and domestic violence cases, many of these incidents leaving a lasting impact on her. As a result of some of her patients' injuries she had a strong dislike for guns and motorbikes for obvious reasons. It has to be said that all of the above nursing and community service was carried out on a completely volunteer basis, and it wasn't until the official opening of the Bush Nursing centre in November 1965 and Noreen appointed as the Sister in charge that it became a paid position.
Mum was nominated by some in the community at the instigation of June Yetman as a local hero as part of the bicentennial celebrations and the displayed ornament is testament to this. Part of her nomination read – "Noreen became the communities volunteer front line face of professional help responding to urgent calls involving numerous accidents and incidents from minor needs to fatalities, Noreen saw them all" "We relied on her advice, her presence brought a degree of comfort to many situations", and "I will always be grateful to Sister Noreen Picone"
In what little spare time Mum had, she liked to keep active and enjoyed playing golf, which she was surprisingly good at. She also played a bit of tennis albeit was usually just a hit and giggle with the ladies. She enjoyed the pool in the summer and would always go 'ooohh' when she hopped in, which, to this day, some of her grandchildren remember and mimic. There were also the usual Friday afternoon visits to the Patche Hotel where the ladies, Roma, Nora, Betty, Una, Sylvia, Margaret, Joy and Rita among others would gather for a cold drink and conversation in the sunroom. She also inherited a love of gardening from her mother. She had a great fern house which she tended to on a regular basis and was very proud that TV gardener Keven Heinz visited. Lots of other shrubs and fruit trees abounded. Like Grandma, she would put a plant in anything that would hold dirt and water. She absolutely loved the outdoor life; raking and weeding in the garden, climbing ladders to prune trees, she also liked painting, the exterior of the house that is, as long as it was a shade of green. Quite a number of chairs and outside furniture also got the green treatment. Mum did it all. Mum didn't tell us how to show compassion, or how to be unselfish or how to be strong minded she simple expected that we would follow her example and I hope that has been the case.
Her cookery skills were basic, I think we were brought up on chops and veggies with a lamb roast every Sunday. A couple of dishes she mastered and is famous for is her Meat Fritters, Jam Roly Polys and her Apple Sponge. Nobody does them like Mum!
After all of us had left home, and I might say at the insistence of mum, she used to say that she raised us, taught us to "fly" and then kicked us out of the nest. Mum and Dad enjoyed tripping around visiting us all. We loved it when they would visit, as Mum would often wash, dry and fold all our washing.
In 1993 she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease….
It was after another illness in 2000 when she spent a lot of time in Geelong with Barb that mum and dad realised they needed to be able to access better health care facilities, so in 2002 they decided to move to Swan Hill. They were delighted with their decision and thrived in their new surroundings.
Seven years later Mums health had deteriorated and it was decided they would move into Alcheringa. Unfortunately, Dad didn't take to his new home and passed away 5 months later on the 14th of August. Mum on the other hand, took it in her stride and made the most of it.
There are many funny stories of Mums antics in Alcheringa, but her personality was still shining through. She used to make sure everyone was okay, even checking on the abandoned babies (dolls) that were in there with her. She liked to keep busy, so was often known to dust her room and strip her bed to clean it, and do rounds with her trusty torch. Her work ethic never waned.
Slowly her Parkinson's disease and dementia took over and she became less able to do the things she loved. This was difficult to watch. Throughout all her illnesses, she never complained, just accepted the cards that were dealt and got on with it.
In closing I would especially like to thank all the staff at Alcheringa for the kind and compassionate way they carried out their duties. It gave the family great comfort to know that mum was in good hands during her latter years.
Once again, I thank you all for attending today, I know a lot of you have travelled quite a distance. A chapter has closed in the Grigg/Walch/Picone story however, through children, grandchildren and great grandchildren the book of life continues. Noreen is survived by 7 children, 14 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren, with another one on the way.
Rest in Peace Noreen.