Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Remember to breathe

roses, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

This bouquet is for Jean Mulvaney, one of the kindest, sweetest, strongest and most inspirational women I have ever met.

When she was 18 she rode around Australia on a bicycle with (I think) 5 other young women. Most found husbands along the way, and Jean and one other were the only ones to finish the trip. I'm talking late 1930s. Fantastic.

I met Jean properly quite late in her life, when I worked for her husband, Professor John Mulvaney. She looked vaguely familiar, and we laughingly worked out that she'd been the Girl Guide Commissioner for Canberra when I'd been a Brownie in the 1970s (!) and I'd shook her hand at a jamboree, or whatever those things were called.

John and Jean were complete opposites: she loved dancing, swimming in the sea, eating exotic foods; he disliked all of it. She would be playing on the beach with the kids, jumping in the water, and he would be fully clothed and shod, on the sand (in the shade, if possible) reading the latest book on history -- or, more likely, writing it. Nevertheless, they were a close couple, extremely devoted to one another.

Jean was highly intelligent, had a fabulous sense of humour and a warmth and interest in humans that extended past her 6 children and umpteen grandchildren. She volunteered for many social duties, including aiding nursing mothers and visiting people in jail. She was a jail visitor for so long that she often laughed at the fact that she was visiting generations of prisoners from the same families...

Jean died on Saturday, and my thoughts go out to John and the family. She died at home, and peacefully, but after a long period of complications arising from a botched operation. She will be deeply missed by many many people in the Canberra community, and our area is the poorer for her passing. I only hope that she gets some sort of public recognition for her efforts over the years.

RIP Jean Mulvaney.

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