UNA MARY WALCH
Our Mother passed away on January 20th 2003 44 years ago her father Jimmy King also died on this day.
Born 1931 on November 5th, Una was the cherished only child of Jim and Kathleen King. Mum grew up 2 km west of Patchewollock and attended Patchewollock State School riding a push bike up Hodders Hill.
Una and Neil had a very happy and fruitful marriage resulting in five children: myself, Peter, Jeff, Greg and Kathryn. A bride and mother in the 50's, Mum loved being a wife, mother, home maker and entertainer.
As Mums birthday was on Guy Faulks day it was always celebrated with a bang. I remember the extravagant parties in the 50's with bonfires and crackers. Una and Neil loved to dance and were always first on and last to leave the dance floor.
Growing up, mum and dad were keen to have their summer holidays after harvest and for 10 years it was off to the Sorrento Hotel where Mum enjoyed dressing up for dinner. There was always lots of swimming - rain, hail or shine as they did not want us Mallee kids to miss a day on the beach. The following 10 years were spent at Torquay and Mum and Dad always squeezed a few Melbourne shows into the January holiday it was off to the Tivoli and any live performances that happened to be playing. They loved to go to Theatre Restaurants, Greek dancing with smashing plates and Turkish restaurants with belly dancers.
Mum and Dad thought it was important to give us a taste of the city life. They taught us tolerance of different backgrounds and religions. And we have married a jew, an anglican, a catholic and a Macedonian. (who am I forgetting?) We love our cosmopolitan family.
Una and Neil had little formal education themselves but thought it was important that the five of us went to university. A suitcase was the standard 18th birthday present and a one way train ticket to get us there. One by one as we left the family nest. Mum hated it. Fortunately we have a 14 year span between Kathryn and myself but still Mum wanted to adopt a baby to have a child at home just a little bit longer. As we left, we went far and wide, to Queensland and even to England, but we always thought of Patche as home.
And life in Patche ticked on. Mum loved her golf. She played every Wednesday and always wanted to be a better golfer but knew she would not get to a single figure handicap. She played to enjoy and always loved the social side of the game. Mum's golfing buddies were her staunch supporters over the past 10 years. Playing mixed at the annual Patche tournament either with Neil or one of her 3 golfer sons was always a high note in the year.
Christmas and Easter were the other big occasions and Mum loved to order and cook local turkeys for these family days when everyone came home. Peter always had extra work at these times as Mum wanted the back step painted and the backlog of repairs fixed up before the family arrived.
Our house always had animals. From the time she was a young girl with an emu through to always having a Siamese cat. Mum loved animals. Sheep dogs were treated as house pets and she still loved them even after one jumped up and broke her leg!
Friday night has always been a big social get together at the Patche Pub. The men would sit in the public bar and the ladies would gather in the Snake pit. Even though 6 o'clock closing ceased in 1966, Mum and her girlfriends would still arrive around 5 and go home around 6 to get the evening meal ready. This practice continued right through the decades until Mum became ill.
Mum's rose garden how many people received a bunch of roses from Mum's rose garden? At one stage she had 110 rose bushes. She tendered to her roses with her childhood friend and cousin Esma. Esma would arrive, roll up her sleeves and, boots on, would be under the shearing shed for sheep manure to feed the roses. Esma would always come when we needed her for help and fun and when she also needed a dose of the Mallee. And over many years, more and more roses were planted. Jock made sure they were always well watered and weeds were never to be seen. Jock would come every day, even if it had just rained to have a coffee and a chat with mum.
Mum loved to chat. Her most common phrase was sit down and have a cup of coffee. She hated the cordless phone if you were talking on the phone you should be sitting down. She chatted on flights, in coffee shops, with shop assistants and hairdressers. She loved people and conversation. When she was having treatment she chattered and got to know other people in similar situations getting on with life as well.
Mum as a young bride lived one kilometre away from the matriarch of the Grigg-Walch family Ruby. Mum was an only child and had to learn to cope with the Grigg-Walch clan. A daunting task for a young bride! Then the roles were reversed Peter married Meg and Mum became the matriarch of the Walch's. Peter had chosen very wisely for himself (and the community of Patche) as he had married a nurse from the city. Peter and Meg went to live in Ruby Walch's family home. Meg had always lived in the city so she now had to deal for the first time with dust storms, mouse plague and how to bake cakes. Meg would go to Mum and say I need to bake a sponge, or a pavalova and Mum enjoyed teaching and advising. She loved having two grandchildren on the farm Tess and Michael would use Mum's house as their second home.
As a little girl Tess would run away to Nanna's and have long chats and play table tennis. Both she and Michael knew that the Baring Bakery was never closed and Nanna's chocolate cake was always on top of the fridge. Michael was always on hand to mow Nana's lawn and do the odd jobs as well.
In later years Mum had the fun of introducing her Mallee grandchildren to the Queensland ones. First Tess came, then Michael and it was special for both of them and Nanna to be on their own and in her charge. Meg has had a major role in the caring of both our parents now. Meg looked after Dad and now Mum. Meg the family would like to say Thankyou.
Mum was a truly supportive farmer's wife she spent well in the good times and pulled in the belt in the lean years. She was also supportive of Neil during the many years of his illness until his death in the spring of 94. Mum took the loss of her life partner of 45 years very hard but, like the trooper she was, she was there for all of us and she got on with doing whatever needed to be done.
As a young bride in the 50's, Mum had never written a cheque, or been away on her own. Una and Neil had done everything together. As a widow aged 65 Mum undertook a massive learning curve how to use a bank account and ATM, how to catch a bus and train. How to catch an aeroplane to Queensland to visit Jeff's family and mine.
Although Mum was very lonely and missed Dad dreadfully every day, she discovered she loved travelling and shopping. Farm life can be lonely for someone on their own, especially through summer when the Golf season has ended. Having a far flung family gave Mum the opportunity to go and visit her precious grandchildren. Then she really found her travel legs and went to London to await the arrival of Kathryn and Arthur's first child, Alex. From someone who had never accessed a bank account, Mum learnt to navigate her way around Islington in London, She took herself to Scotland, Wales and fell in love with Cornwall.
Mum continued her travel bug never saying no to a trip or an outing. She went camping with Esma and Rita learning to sleep on a swag - and following the camel races. Susan, her special friend, was also young and a widow. They became the terrible twos, always ready for an occasion or an expedition. Mum also now found she did have more children as she became an extra member of Susan's family. On one such occasion, Susan being heavy with the accelerator they were pulled over by the boys in blue. Very upset Mum explained to the police But you can't do this we are widows. Not surprising the police were unmoved. After Susan married Adrian the terrible three's had trips to Adelaide to play the pokies, up to Queensland to see Fran and down to Melbourne seeing the kids.
To rival her 110 rose bushes, Mum developed a serious hobby - collecting teddy bears! It seemed to begin with the Palace Guard bears she bought in London and the rule was any trip meant she brought home a new bear. Mum travelled in sickness and in health.
She loved her holidays in Brighton with Greg, Nola and their children, George and Sacha. The Dendy theatre was always a favourite to see the latest films, and she loved Church Street because she lived in the area as a child. Una and Neil were also married in Brighton and her chief bridesmaid on that happy occasion was Margaret Jolly who has been her life long friend.
Mum loved visiting Melbourne and staying at Kathryn and Arthur's in Hampton. Alex, Christopher and Anastasia kept her on her toes and Kathryn's friends would always stop in for a chat. She loved to walk down the Hampton Street shops and she became the Queen of the Southland shopping centre.
Mum became sick in 2001 and really showed how courageous and determined she could be as she fought her cancer with all of her might never complaining of pain just a slight stitch. She was feeling better every day...
Driving Mum's determination and will to live she had to live in Melbourne for treatment. Monday to Friday at Hampton with Kathryn, Arthur, Alex, Christopher and Anastasia. Weekends in Brighton with Nola, Greg, George and Sacha.
Home to Patche for the breaks in treatment with Meg, Peter, Tess and Michael. And if they were long breaks, Mum would not let being sick stop her from travelling to Qld to visit Jeff and Fiona and see their children, Justin, Sean and Anna in Brisbane. And she would always come to the Gold Coast to see Simon and I and Samantha and Susannah.
She loved the variety in her grandchildren. Samantha 23 down to Sacha who is one. She would bounce from house renovating, to university students, down to learning to walk enjoying every facet of their lives.
But on her last trip to Qld in October my husband Simon said he would have to take away her Qld passport as the distance was too hard on her and she had become very sick.
Mum enjoyed a special relationship with her oncologist Gary. And Gary actually wrote to Kathryn after her Qld trip as he thought she had passed away. Kathryn had the pleasure of reading this note to Mum He wrote Una was a wonderful woman who became a friend rather than a patient I will really miss her and wish I could have said goodbye. He should not have given up so soon because Mum certainly hadn't. Mum made it back to Patche for Christmas and her primary reason for this last trip to Melbourne was to ask Gary's advice as she thought he may still have a few tricks up his sleeve. But this time Gary could not help and gave her a deadline. In Mum's famous words it's a bit of a bugger.
And so it is.