Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mark and Betty remember Jean Newton 10/12/20 - 15/3/15

Betty Remembers:

Our family of Mum, Dad, Jean, Keith and myself were a happy family living in Hobart. We were all involved with StJohns Church where Jean and I taught Sunday School and were members of the PFA. We enjoyed many Easter camps and a most memorable one was when we walked to the top of Mt Wellington to see the sunrise. It was a beautiful full moon and snowing lightly.

Due to our age difference we had a different circle of friends but when we moved to Melbourne in 1942 we were loners for a while until we joined the Church and started playing basketball and tennis. I think the only arguments we had were when I would "borrow" her beautifully knitted jumpers since Jean was size 8 and I was size 16.

After my move to Perth in 1946 Jean and Mum made many visits with one or other of Jean's children. In the later years I was able to make yearly visits to Melbourne and spend quality time with the family.

Jean and I kept in regular touch and I shall sadly miss our weekly telephone chats.

Mark remembers:

One of my earliest memories is of being allowed to get up early in the morning and to share the parental bed with my mother and father. My favourite position was between the two of them – I would peacefully return to sleep, feeling safe and secure from the imagined beasts that can invade a very small boy’s mind. The practice of spending an hour or two in my parents’ bed continued until I was nearly six, at which time it was decided I was getting a little big and a little too old to continue to need such comforting. The warmth and love and security of those early morning communal sleeps will stay with me for the rest of my life.

While the day to day duties of running the household were clearly defined between Mum and Dad, from time to time there were projects that required extra labour and at which time the whole family including us kids were seconded to duty. One annual project that fell into this category was potato planting. This occurred over a two day period somewhere in mid to late spring where we would hire an old ploughman, with horse and plough to dig up the land that we had leased from the railways in order to grow a commercial crop of potatoes to supplement the family’s income. On these two days Mum’s duty was to cut the seed potatoes into smaller pieces to maximise the area that could be planted from the available stock of (expensive) seed spuds. Mum would work furiously turning a six foot high mountain of potatoes into an eight foot high mountain of potato pieces, while we three kids (Greg was just a baby at this stage, and took no active part other than trying to eat the occasional green potato) would come with our buckets and fill them up with the potato pieces and then go out into the paddock and plant them behind the horse and plough and hopefully quickly enough before the horse completed its circuit and came up behind us. These potato planting days are remembered fondly, even though they really constituted twenty or thirty hours of constant hard labour for the whole family. It was a team effort and the feeling of achievement at having successfully planted a two to three acre paddock over a two day period that made us feel so good.

One of Mum’s best abilities, apart from her cooking, was her knitting and every evening after the meal was finished and the kids had taken their rostered turn in washing and drying the dishes, we would sit by the open fire in our house or on the veranda in summer time, where Mum would bring out her piece of knitting and spend an hour or two every evening producing a jumper or a scarf or some booties for the family or a friend. My recollection is that I received at least one and sometimes two new jumpers every winter from Mum’s hands. They were always beautiful warm woollen jumpers using the best materials. Later, as a teenager, I formed a bad habit of losing jumpers, much to Mum’s annoyance but I do remain eternally grateful to Mum for the love and thought she put into those jumpers she created for us.

If tennis was the day-time sport that dominated our lives, Scrabble was the evening game that did. Dad and I sometimes played cribbage, and later in life a bit of chess or draughts, but Scrabble was the family game that we all played on a regular basis. Mum and Dad in particular played Scrabble even in their later years on a very frequent basis and were quite accomplished players. They evenly matched their knowledge of words and would come up with some real beauties. If Dad had a slightly better ability to come up with an unheard word before, then Mum’s strength was her ability to pick out the triple letters and triple words. Many a battle was enjoyed between the two of them and sometimes with the involvement of my sisters or me and my visiting friends and the games were always played in a spirit of friendliness and happy rivalry.

Mum was in her late fifties when Dad died. This was, of course a very traumatic and sad time for her and it was a time when the whole family had to rally around and support each other. Mum and dad had raised four children and taken their circumstances, from that of a strictly working class background to a higher plateau on the social level with their children all educated to fill professional positions and they had also created a beautiful home on a couple of acres at Mt Evelyn which had a connection with Dad’s family going back sixty years where they had planned to spend long and peaceful years together. Unfortunately fate is not always determined by the pans of mere mortals and Mum’s happy retirement with Dad was certainly abruptly ended by his sudden departure.

After his death mum devoted herself to looking after her elderly mother, Nan , who had lived with us since her husband had died twenty years earlier. Nan was born in the 19th century and had lived her life with almost puritanical self-denial and hard work. As a result she lived to a grand old age of 95, the last for which Mum was her main companion and carer. Mum selflessly cared for Nan day in and day out for those fifteen years denying herself a lot of pleasures such as travel or mixing with others of her own age or socialising. It is a measure of the importance with which she valued the family and also a measure of her sense of responsibility that she was able to perform this caring duty so diligently.  Jean Newton is truly a woman of outstanding qualities.


It is nearly twenty years since I wrote the previous words about Mum for her 75th birthday. During that time of ageing she remained independent, strong and clear-minded, right to the end. She was warm and hospitable, always happy to see us. She suffered a lot of pain over the past decade but complained very little.
Family was everything to her and she passed away with her beloved family around her. She loved my family of ‘Sydney Newtons’ as much as my brother, sisters and their spouses and families in Melbourne.  She will be sorely missed and very fondly remembered.

Mum's history derived from interviews by Janice from 2004

Agnes Jean Newton was born in Battery Point, Hobart in 1920, first child of Vera and Ted Winters and eldest sister to Keith and Betty. She attended primary school in Hobart, enjoying mathematics and poetry recitation. Jean was dux of Hobart South school in her Merit year, then went on to Zercos Business College for a year.

Jean’s first job, aged about 15 was with Kodak camera company, starting at the counter, moving up to the cashier’s job and then into the office. After war was declared in 1939 she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air force. She left Kodak and joined Number 6 Wing of the Air Training Corps Hobart.
During Jean’s youth and early twenties in Hobart, Jean’s social life revolved around the Presbyterian Fellowship Association and St John’s Presbyterian Church. She also loved holidays and weekends with her girlfriend Doreen McKay on Bruny Island.

 In 1942 when her parents left Hobart and moved to Melbourne, Jean remained in Hobart for a while but later gained a position at Number 1 wing of the Air Training Corps on the ‘North Island’ in Melbourne. Here she remained until some time after the war, unable to seek work back at Kodak due to manpower regulations. Ultimately she obtained a secretarial job in charge of six girls in an office section of the Hide and Leather Board. She was working here in the late 1940s when she met her husband Lance at a Presbyterian Cricket Club dance at the Northcote Town Hall. Lance played cricket for the Church team and Jean attended the same Church.

After marrying at the Queens St Registry Office in 1947 and honeymooning at the Grand Hotel Healesville, early married life began at Jean’s parent’s house in Mansfield St, Thornbury but in 1949 they were able to purchase a war service home in Mt Evelyn. Jean had three children in less than four years (Gail 1948, Janice 1950 and Mark 1951). Their fourth child Greg was born in 1958. At Mt Evelyn Jean and Lance made many close friends, including the Blundens, Hardys, Millards and others from the tennis club. Jean held a number of secretarial positions at Dunlop Bayswater, Wiggins Lilydale, Turner’s bulbs Silvan, an Architects firm in Melbourne and at Dr Hardy’s surgery, Mt Evelyn. She received excellent references from her employers. She also played tennis, studied flower arranging, gardened and undertook voluntary work at the Kindergarten and High School.

Her husband Lance retired in around 1976 and sadly died suddenly of a heart attack in 1979. She missed him terribly for the rest of her life. Jean enjoyed travelling but  only managed one caravan trip north and a Pacific Island cruise with husband Lance before he died. Since then she has taken children and grandchildren on trips to Sydney, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania and a Murray River Cruise and travelled by herself on a bus trip to the outback and to visit Jo and Roly Hall in Port Macquarie.  After her 80th birthday, she had the opportunity for a wonderful overseas trip to join Greg, Kathy and family in Dublin for Christmas.    

 Somewhat shy and nervous in early life, Jean grew in confidence as she got older and proved her mettle raising four children, managing paid work and housework, playing in the family tennis team and much more.

She was a wonderful sister, wife, mother, grandmother, worker and friend. She was an excellent cook and she and Lance enjoyed entertaining friends at home. For many years the family had its own tennis team that was formed to play in the Upper Yarra district and much enjoyment was gained from competitive tennis. Jean displayed remarkable fortitude in coping with the devastating loss of her beloved husband and in overcoming two fractured femurs in 1994 and 2007. In 2000 she moved to live in a unit at Cherry Tree Grove Retirement Village at Croydon. There she made many new friends and lived happily until 2013 when she moved to live with her daughter Gail and her husband Mike at Glen Iris. Although somewhat restricted in mobility she continued to enjoy life right up to the day before she passed away. Sadly at age 94 she fell and fractured her femur: she was admitted to hospital but overnight suffered a heart attack and died the following day.

Throughout her life she was very close to all her family in particular her sister Betty even though they lived on opposite sides of the country, they spoke at least once a week and Betty visited Jean as often as she could. Betty would love to have been here today but has recently undergone surgery that prevents her from travelling.

Mum's 94th birthday