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A tribute to...

Carolyn Sylvia Willie

Published: Wed 24th Jul 2019

"She was creative, generous, a wonderful spouse and great sister and daughter. She loved life and lived it to the fullest"

- Roy Willie

Highly intelligent with an adventurous nature Carolyn Sylvia Willie - who was known by one and all as Sylvia - lived a fascinating life driven by a passion for learning and a desire to explore.

Sylvia, who died on 10 July 2019 at the Blue Care Wynnum Aged Care facility after seven years battling Alzheimer's disease, started her life in Camden, New Jersey on March 23, 1941.

She was the first child of Thomas Lamont and Carolyn Woodmansee Wilson. Her brother John Lamont (Monty) was to arrive two years later in June 1943.

After the Wilson family moved to Lyndon, Kentucky near Louisville in 1946, Sylvia's adventurous nature was to show - joining the Christian Recreation Youth Association and travelling with the group around the country and into Mexico. She also joined the Girl Scouts of America and was exposed to water and boats through the troop's activities. She also travelled to Europe with her Grandmother as a teenager.

High school saw Sylvia excel. She was selected to become a member of the National Honour Society and became interested in chemistry, which was her entry subject into the world of university.

She graduated from High School and started as a Chemistry major at the University of Utah in 1959 but changed to Archaeology and graduated in 1963 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Statistics.

University also brought romance. Sylvia met fellow University of Utah graduate student Roy Emil Willie and the two were married at the Duncan Memorial Chapel in Crestwood, Kentucky on 29 December 1962 - a marriage that was to span 57 years.

Sylvia with her Brother and Parents.
Sylvia with her Brother and Parents.

Outside of work, Sylvia loved to ski, and hike and was a master behind the wheel of the couple's 1963 356B Porsche winning many Hill Climb and Gymkhana trophies.

The couple were lured across the border to Canada in 1969 when a Canadian entrepreneur offered Roy a job in Vancouver. While they were there Sylvia enrolled at the University of British Columbia and began working towards an MBA degree which she completed in 1971 with majors in Organization Behaviour and Management Information Systems.

It was 1975 when the couple's next big adventure began. They bought a 41-foot yacht named Zara II and decided they would live onboard and spend their recreation time exploring the Canadian and Western US waters.

It was this life they lived until 1979, when they decided it was time to set sail further afield, looking for adventure with no plans other than: "we will sail until we get tired of it or things change".

That journey took them to a host of destinations including Seattle, California, Mexico, French Polynesia staying a year visiting various islands in the group. Then they sailed on to American Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Noumea, arriving in Bundaberg, Australia 3 years later in 1982, just in time for the Commonwealth Games. It was a journey of mostly good times and memories with a few scary moments to test their resolve.

After a short sail down the coast, they landed at Manly near Brisbane, Queensland, which became their next home. After arriving, Sylvia and Roy decided they wanted to reconnect with the changes in computer technology. They applied for jobs and were accepted for permanent residency in Australia.

They sold Zara II and bought a house on Stratton Terrace, Manly, in 1983.

Renovations kept them busy until 1987 when they bought a Queenslander on Mountjoy Terrace. More renovations followed and Sylvia learned to create stain glass windows so she could replace those that were aging in the home.

In 1987, Sylvia became a lecturer at QUT in the Information and Technology department and held that position until her retirement in 2003.

In 1993, Roy and Sylvia were granted Australian citizenship and thus became dual citizens of the United States and Australia.

Sylvia and Roy.
Sylvia and Roy.

Sylvia loved being outside, and had a passion for kayaking, hiking, gardening and bird watching.

She devoted several years of her life to volunteering at 'Sailability' where she helped to enrich the lives of people with disabilities through sailing. She was also an avid kayaker, paddling many of the water ways of Queensland and New South Wales and pointing out the bird life to her fellow paddlers.

Sylvia was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2012, the same year the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It was unfortunately, the start of a steady decline in her health that led her entering permanent care in 2017.

Roy says: "She was creative, generous, a wonderful spouse and great sister and daughter. She loved life and lived it to the fullest".

Always keen on research, she has donated her body to the QUT Body Bequest program for scientific and medical purposes.

Sylvia is survived by Roy, and her brother John L Wilson of Norfolk, Nebraska, USA.

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