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A tribute to...

Helen Gould Hurley Smith

Published: Mon 14th Jun 2021

On the same day that Helen Smith arrived into the world at a private hospital in Geelong, on the other side of the world the governments of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were busy signing the Pact of the Union. The date was January 19, 1921. While Helen may never have made it to Central America in her travels later in life, she certainly found the time to explore far flung parts of the globe and see how other people lived.

Helen, who died on June 3, 2021, after having lived in and around central and Southwestern Victoria for more than 100 years, had a life divided into several distinct parts.

The daughter of Nell and Thomas Sutcliffe and the sister of Margaret Sutcliffe, Helen grew up in Geelong and attended Morongo Presbyterian Girls College on Bell Post Hill near Geelong.

From school she did her training and study to become a nurse and dietician at the Geelong Hospital until 1947 when at the age of 26 she married Clarence Gordon Coverdale Smith to become a farmer's wife, and later in life a farmer in her own right.

The couple settled on a farm at Elaine near Ballarat in Victoria and raised their three children Diana, Heather and Andrew.

Helen with her daughter Helen on the farm.
Helen with her daughter Helen on the farm.

They ran sheep and cattle and in latter years they bought a second property not far from Corowa in New South Wales which was mostly cropping and running sheep.

Helen's daughter Diana said Helen had lived a quiet country life, becoming a member of the local Red Cross, the CWA and the local Fire Brigade.

"She was one of those women who made the most of all the produce from the farm.

"She had a large bottling kit and preserved most of the fruits from our garden. She was a keen vegetable gardener and a hands-on farmer as well.

"There were no processed foods in the house - everything we ate was home-grown!

"She made wonderful sweet and savoury pies and casseroles, but there was not much chocolate in our household."

Helen also loved to clean some of the wool fleeces after shearing, dye them with vegetable dyes, spin them into yarns on her spinning wheel and use them for knitting clothes.

"She would sometimes tan the sheep hides and we had sheep skin rugs on all of the floors of the house. In addition to this hobby of hers, she was always soaking canes in the laundry trough to soften them to weave into baskets."

After her husband Clarence died in 1986 (aged 67), Helen started to travel overseas with her sister or daughters - exploring Europe, Africa and South-East Asia over time. She was very fit and she loved exploring foreign places by walking everywhere she could.

Helen with her husband Clarence and daughter Heather.
Helen with her husband Clarence and daughter Heather.

"You couldn't wear her out!"

Although Helen moved to Geelong later in life, she still spent time on the property in New South Wales which she continued to manage with the help of her son Andrew and share-farmer Barry. It was only in the last couple of years that she moved to her daughter Heather's farm at Vite Vite North, before moving into residential aged care at Aberlea in Mortlake.

When Helen turned 100 at Aberlea they held a small party for her with family and residents.

"She loved the celebration and the cards from The Queen and other dignitaries - such a treat!

"She was the most positive person, always, and she was always happy - it was quite amazing really.

"She had her wits about her right up until the end. We were so lucky to have had her for as long as we did.

"How many people are lucky enough to still have a loving mother with them when they are in their late sixties and early seventies themselves?"

Helen is survived by her three children Diana, Heather and Andrew; grandsons David, Caleb and Clarrie; great grandchildren Jasper, Ruby and June; daughter-in-law Claire; and grand daughters-in-law Bec and Momoko.

Helen's funeral will be conducted by Tuckers Funeral Services Geelong. Due to Covid restrictions, details are still being finalised.

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