Laurie Theresa Harbort
Readers of the Catholic Leader during the period 1955 to 1980
The farewell for 100-year-old matriarch Therese 'Terry' Collette was a collection of colourful and heartfelt stories delivered by the children and grandchildren she inspired.
'Terry' passed away on July 2 with her funeral hosted by Blackwell Funerals on July 13.
With the family's permission, we share two eulogies, one from her son Patrick Collette and the other from her daughter Rosemary Shearer.
Mum was born on February 1st 1922, a Wednesday, in Ceylon. She was the second child to Dr Rex & Edith Van Cuylenburg.
Her father was a country doctor and her mother a teacher. Her mother passed away when Mum was ten. After a few years, her father travelled to UK to take further studies in medicine, so Mum went to live with her aunt and uncle. They were managers of the Colombo Zoo.
She met Dad (Bruce) when she was about 19. He used to watch her play netball, much to her embarrassment. He would follow her around the court which embarrassed her even more. Dad was an accomplished tennis player and she used to sometimes watch him play, while hiding behind a tree! She was shy. Dad was a handsome man and was quite 'the catch' in Colombo.
After a courtship, they were engaged and then married on May 16, 1942 at St Peters Church Colombo. Mum was 20. I was born in Oct 1943 when Mum was 21, Chris (now deceased) was born six years later and Patrick four years after that.
Dad ran the family business Collette's Limited, which not only sold paint but had the distributorship for Austin of England. Sometime later, he acquired the distributorship for Holden in Sri Lanka. So Dad was very busy with the business and Mum had to find an interest. We had a nanny and a cook, but Mum was still very involved with us. Life was good.
She had an active social life with parties, dancing and dinners nearly every weekend with friends at favourite hotels. They also hosted dinners at home for business men from the UK who came to visit Dad.
Mum loved clothes and she had lots. My favourite was a black and white cutwork full flare taffeta strapless evening dress. Most of her evening clothes were donated to charity when we left for Australia. She had a few that she brought over, but the social life here was quite different. In the end she donated the rest to a charity.
Mum attended a sewing school in Sri Lanka, learning drafting and design. This evolved into her love of sewing later on. She made both my daughters' clothes and some of mine for many years. She had a knack of matching colours and just adding extras to make it look different.
Mum and I had fun spending days out at fabric shops. She had a thing for buying fabrics - off cuts, measured lengths, whatever. Mostly bright and different textures. She always had an idea what she would make with it, however accumulation took over production. She had well over 200 lengths of fabrics and numerous pattern books that we had to find a home for. Most of the materials were bright in colour. She always dressed in bright colours.
In 1958, there was unrest in Sri Lanka, so our family left for Adelaide on SS Iberia. I don't think Mum liked the idea much, but it was better for us as a family. We lived in Hazelwood Park and attended schools in the area. Mum took a while to settle. It was a different way of life, different seasons and a change to pounds, shillings and pence.
It wasn't long after our arrival, that Dad found out that all their assets in Sri Lanka were frozen and were never released.
He built houses and sold them for a profit to help our education to continue; and Mum worked in a Stonyfell winery to earn some money.
Dad also started a curry restaurant (The Kandy Restaurant) in the city and Mum did the cooking. It was hard work but a labour of love. Customers loved the food. As kids we helped with the wash-up and tidying. She continued cooking all sorts of SL specialities for the family. Her curries were an instant hit with all the sons and daughters-in-law. This is such an achievement as Mum could not even boil an egg when she married.
My love of cooking has been shaped by Mum and at least four of her grandchildren have become great cooks. It's a legacy we hope carries on, especially with the Sri Lankan food.
Dad passed away in 1984. It was a huge blow. After much convincing we got her to move to Aberfoyle Park where she lived until she went to Resthaven.
Summing up Mum, she was a loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She had a kind heart, was caring, creative and colourful and a great cook and seamstress. That's quite a bit!
Rest in peace Mum. Love you!
Mum was caring, loving, selfless, loyal, a family-first person, extremely hardworking and she always made sacrifices for her children. She was also a proud and determined lady. I think it was those two attributes that got her to 100-years old.
From her early 70s, Mum would say this would be her last Christmas, or her last birthday. It became a bit of a "violin" moment within the family and we'd take the mickey out of her, saying things like "Can you pose well for this photo?" or "Can you cook this very special meal - as it could be your last?"
I remember as she got closer to 100, she was determined to get there, regardless of her falls, the flu, you name it she got through it and the doctors were amazed that she would recover.
Mum had a habit of talking about the year she was in, rather that her actual birthday age. So, if she turned 75, she would say she was in her 76th year. I went to pick her up from Resthaven to bring her back to my place to celebrate her 99th birthday. When I arrived she was really dressed up - the staff had done a magnificent job, of course. Mum thought she had turned 100, because she was in her 100th year. Once I told her, she was disappointed as she had to wait one more year for the letter from the Queen, something she was very much looking forward to.
When Dad passed away so young, it was devastating for Mum. Dad was her true love and she never married again. Mum was still living in Magill by herself with all her family in the Adelaide Hills. Mum was only familiar with the local surroundings, and with her sense of direction she was very nervous to go outside that comfort zone. It was a huge challenge. But with trial and error and determination, she finally managed to drive up into The Hills, visiting family regularly, looking after grandkids, delivering food, conquering her phobia with pure love.
Mum made a difference in my life in so many wonderful ways. She was a Christian and had strong faith. This, coupled with her strong family values of caring, loving and helping, meant she was a constant living reminder of how to live your life - that has rubbed off on me, my kids and the wider family. Mum never realised what an influence she had on family, leading by example just subtly flowed through us all - thank you Mum.
Mum loved cooking for me and my kids and did so for over 40 years - virtually every week. She always wanted to help with the kids, cook, clean, help in the garden, make clothes. After losing Dad, she wanted to be busy with family, feel needed and appreciated - which she certainly was.
Mum taught me to cook, and often I was just too busy with work to put it into practice regularly, but once I retired, Mum helped me a lot with my cooking and I developed a real love for it.
I used to bring Mum home from Resthaven and we would just sit and talk, while I cooked. What she did over all those year for her family, I really get it now. I realise that it is never a chore to cook for your kids and grandkids, it's a true joy and that is how I feel - thank you Mum.
Here are some special Ma moments and memories that made her so unique:
- Mum would say "No, No, No" to all and any photos (looking down, not at the camera, not smiling, self-conscious). It took many attempts and trickery to get the right shot - thank goodness digital photos came in!
- So, we have a woman who dresses in a flamboyant, multi colourful way and wears sunglasses indoors, but she is shy, avoids cameras, does not want any attention drawn to her, and usually scoots off after gatherings, or church. Go figure!
- Mum always had a poor sense of direction and her driving stories, or following behind her, always made us cringe. It was often a family topic at gatherings, nevertheless, she never had an accident and her passengers always arrived safe and well.
- Mum was famous for her head scratches when we were sick, using a flannel and 4711 on it to cool you down - the smell today instantly takes me back there.
- Mum was into exercise and ensuring she stayed trim and slim. As a part of her routine, she used to bang her bottom against the wall about 100 times. As a child of 10, it weirded me out a bit, but she assured me that it was a legit exercise and it worked in toning.
Some of Ma's famous sayings:
- Mark my word!
- Whenever we left the house, she would say either, "drive carefully", and/or "don't overdo it".
- When Mum was not feeling well, she would say, "I feel like a chewed piece of string".
Mum, your passing is so sad, but your life was so inspirational and a real celebration, I really don't think I have missed out on anything, you gave me your everything. Thank you Mum.
Gordan Anderson, a man who would do anything for anybody, and not think twice about it.
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