Vale December 2006

ABEL, Sheila |  CARVER, Mary |  GAIUS, Saimon (Rev. Sir) |  HENDERSON, Joyce |  HOPPER, Patricia Wiseman |  LEWIS, David (Dr) |  MELROSE, Geoff |  PEDERICK, Dorothy  | SAAVE, Jan (Dr) | 


Sheila ABEL (23 June 2006, aged 93)

Sheila Abel was born in Musoorie, a hill station in northern India in 1913, the second of six children. Her father, Will Porteous, was a missionary doctor from New Zealand and her mother was a Londoner. The family moved from India to their father’s home in Dunedin, NZ, in 1925. There, Sheila went to high school and university, graduating in home economics from the University of Otago. In 1932 she spent a year in the United States as an exchange student at the famous Barnard College in New York. On returning to NZ she had a variety of jobs before she and her sister decided to venture to Sydney ‘to seek their fortunes’. There she met her future husband, Russell Abel, who was down from Kwato Mission on furlough. They were married in Kwato in 1940, but married life was cut short in 1941 by the threat posed by the advancing Japanese army. When the order to evacuate to Australia came, Sheila made her way to her parents’ home in Dunedin where her first child, Christopher, was born in 1941. Sheila and Russell, now with two children, returned to Port Moresby in 1945 aboard Burns Philps’ MV Montoro. As they had a Milne Bay woman, Olive Lebasi, travelling with them, they were segregated from the rest of the passengers and moved into a hot, cramped cabin in the crew’s quarters. Back in Kwato after the war, Sheila spent the next 20 years teaching primary school classes at Kwato and in schools around Milne Bay. When Russell died in 1965, she returned to her family in NZ for a year before moving back to Port Moresby. Initially she taught at Hagara Primary School, near Hanuabada, then at various vocational schools around Port Moresby. Her last job was teaching home economics at Port Moresby’s Teachers’ College. Retiring to Australia in 1981, Sheila bought a house in Buderim on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. There she became involved in the fledgling Immanuel Lutheran College when her grandsons, Charles and Owen, came to live with her and attend that school. Two years later, they were joined by their brother, Jeffrey. Looking after three teenage grandsons was heavy work for a 70-year-old not used to housework. However, that involvement helped her to adjust to her new life in Australia after 40 years in PNG. Sheila was also active in the Buderim Uniting Church, where she made many friends and was an Elder for many years. In recent years Sheila was cared for in her Buderim home by her daughter Liz. Earlier this year, the family decided to move her back to Alotau rather than having her go into a nursing home. Sheila experienced a marked physical improvement for a short time, enabling her to celebrate her 93rd birthday surrounded by family members, including eight great grandchildren, who helped her blow out the candles on her birthday cake. She died peacefully two weeks later and was buried beside her husband in the church grounds at Kwato, where other Abel family members are also buried. Her three children Chris, Liz and Murray, who all live in Alotau, six grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren survive her. John Farquharson with Chris and Liz Abel


Mary CARVER (18 July 2006, aged 74 years)

Mary arrived in PNG in the late fifties and was employed with the PNG Administration as Draftsman/Surveyor with the Dept of Lands. She travelled widely, with her work and privately, but was based in Port Moresby at Boroko. She was a long time member of SAPNG Shooting Club (Rifle and Small Bore) winning many trophies – topped by ‘The Queens Prize Shoot’ in 1971. Mary retired from PNG in the late 70s, to Sydney initially, and then to her family home at Thorneside on Moreton Bay, QLD. Always well liked, Mary did things her way and leaves many friends and acquaintances. Her sister, Susan Chinoweth died some years ago in Spain and her brother-in-law David lives there still. Chaseley Wilkinson


Rev. Sir Saimon GAIUS, KBE, SBStJ (14 July 2006, aged 85 years)

Saimon Gaius was born at Ngatur village on the Gazelle Peninsula, East New Britain. The son of a pastor, he attended the Methodist Overseas Mission school at Raluana and trained as a pastor at George Brown College, Vunairima. Graduating in 1940, he served for a year as a tutor at the College, then went on to serve as a pastor in the Baining Circuit, just before the Japanese invasion in January 1942. He helped Australian servicemen who were escaping through the Bainings, then carried on with his pastoral duties until forcibly removed by the Japanese from his post. The rest of the war years were spent at his home village, maintaining Christian teaching and worship, with services held secretly in the bush when public worship was banned. By this time he was married to Margaret Ia Kubak, and they eventually had six children. After the war he served again as a tutor at the re-established George Brown College, then went to Australia in 1949 to assist the Rev. Con Mannering in the completion of the translation of the Bible into Tinata Tuna, the language of the Tolai, of which only portions had already been published. In 1957 he was received as a candidate for the ordained ministry of the Methodist Church and in 1961 he was ordained and appointed Superintendent Minister of the Baining Circuit, the first indigenous minister to be given such a responsibility. He represented his church at several overseas conferences, and later became the first indigenous Principal of the George Brown College. In 1968 Rev. Saimon Gaius became the first Bishop of the New Guinea Islands Region. His innate modesty led him to try to decline the appointment, but when persuaded to accept, he fulfilled the role with grace and dignity and also with great courage. It was a troubled time politically in the NGIR, especially on the Gazelle Peninsula, where past alienation of their lands had built up tensions in the growing Tolai population. Bishop Gaius was persuaded by the Administration to be a member of a three-man Commission of Inquiry into the problem but he received death threats as a result. He went calmly on with his work as leader of the church, showing an impartial attitude to all factions among his people, and won through with the respect of all. His term as Bishop was due to end in 1974, but he was re-elected so that he would lead the church during the 1975 celebrations of the centenary of the coming of the first Methodist missionaries. In that year he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to church and community. Later honours were also awarded to him. Sir Saimon resumed circuit ministry after his time as Bishop, and then retired, whilst still helping when needed. After the 1994 volcanic eruption he again came out of retirement and ministered to the villagers. Even when he was back in his home village, he was looked up to as a preacher and a leader of the church, until his death. He is survived by Lady Margaret and five of their children. Having known Sir Saimon since 1961, and worked closely with him during his time as Bishop, I would call him the most saintly person whom it has been my privilege to know. Neville Threlfall


Joyce HENDERSON (17 August 2006, aged 99 years)

Joy was born and brought up on the Clarence River in northern NSW. She attended boarding school in Sydney followed by the Conservatorium of Music, returning to Maclean to teach music and dramatic art at the local high school. It was here that she met Frank Henderson, who was teaching agricultural science prior to his departure for New Guinea to work as an Agricultural Officer. They fell in love and Joy went to PNG as a bride in 1938 where they lived at Kerevat and then Talasea in New Britain until war broke out. With a small child and another on the way, Joy was evacuated to Australia and spent the war years living with relatives until Frank was discharged from the Air Force in 1946. The family returned to Rabaul with their children, Janet and Rodney. Frank re-established Kerevat, the Government Agricultural Station. They moved to Port Moresby in 1954 when Frank became Director of Agriculture and later Assistant Administrator (Economic Affairs). Joy lived a busy life in Port Moresby involved in the Girl Guides, Red Cross and numerous other community activities. She was the consummate hostess, enjoying the many friends and dignitaries who visited their home. Following Frank’s death in 1969 Joy returned to Sydney to make her home in Wahroonga. She made a life for herself keeping in contact with her PNG friends, travelling with friends and family, playing bridge and golf, working for the local branch of the liberal party and enjoying her grandchildren. Her strength of character was tested again with the devastating loss of her beloved son Rodney in the Granville train disaster. In the years that followed she inspired her family with her approach to life, her independence, and engagement in community and family affairs. However, failing health lead to her moving to Fernbank Retirement Village in the late l980s. In this lovely environment, not far from family and friends, she became actively involved in village life, continuing to follow with interest activities in Papua New Guinea and local politics, and to play her beloved bridge, which she did into her 98 year. Joy is survived by her daughter Jan, daughter in law Kerry, granddaughters Ashley, Kymberly and Ruth and their partners and children. Jan Andrews


Patricia Wiseman HOPPER (22 September 2006, aged 77)

Brought up in the NSW country town of Inverell, by the age of 16 Pat had enrolled in Sydney University through the New England campus in Armidale. Her Arts degree major as a Librarian would have a profound effect on the path her life would take. Travel became a dominant theme, taking her on many trips to Europe, Asia and the US. An expedition to London in 1951 found her with a job as an English-speaking governess to the family of a French industrialist, across the Channel in Nantes. Touring Europe and travelling in the French countryside provided experiences which were perhaps the genesis of her subsequent reputation and skill as a cook and hostess.

Back in Australia, in 1952-53, she applied for and won the position of Regional Librarian for the New Guinea Islands and found herself in Rabaul in 1954, billeted in old WW2 Army huts. She met Alex Hopper there, married, most of her children were born there and her brother and sister moved there soon after her marriage. PNG went on to be the dominant theme of her life, even after she left Rabaul many years later. Pat and Alex had been married 19 years when he died from injuries in a fire which destroyed the plantation home on New Britain in August 1974, during which Pat was also hospitalised. She was then 45. Her busy plantation life, as well as raising a family, had left her little time in the late ‘50s and ‘60s to further her academic studies, but with the emergence of the University of PNG and with strong encouragement from Alex, she had enrolled in a Masters degree with UPNG. Pat suffered a setback in her research in German New Guinea history when most of her work was destroyed in the house fire – nonetheless she picked up again and in 1979 was awarded Master of Arts for her thesis on the history of the Expropriation Board. Pat was an habitual giver, her activities demonstrating an enduring interest in helping others. She was a Magistrate in the Rabaul Children’s Court and in Sydney involved with Little Theatre, Horticultural and Art societies (she was an accomplished artist herself) and in a great variety of voluntary activities. She was a contributor to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, a lady of great intelligence and broad general knowledge, with a voracious appetite for reading and always fully appraised on current affairs.

The great watershed events of 1974 haunted her at times, yet provided her with extraordinary strength, if at times loneliness. But Pat was a survivor, a contributor, good fun, with her appeal and personality evidenced by all who knew or met her. She cherished her family and friends, particularly her 12 grandchildren. Pat will be sadly missed by Jane, Paul, Rebecca and Jonathon as well as her sister Margaret and their families. Condensed from the eulogy given by Pat’s eldest son, Paul A Hopper, at Pat’s packed funeral service


Geoff MELROSE (9 September 2006, aged 78 years)

Geoff loved his childhood growing up in places like Kavieng, Salamaua and Rabaul where his father was Director of District Services (New Guinea) pre WWII and Government Secretary after the war. It must have been quite a culture shock when he was sent to Sydney for his schooling, first at Lancaster House, later graduating to Barker College. His friend John Clarke remembers him as a schoolboy being ‘fresh faced, intelligent, loyal, gregarious and very active’. However his outstanding characteristics were that he was cheeky, irreverent and very, very likeable. He was a keen athlete, being a member of the rugby, cricket and athletic teams. His love of these sports never left him. Scholastically he achieved, and this is where his love affair with writing began. In his last few years he wrote mainly about PNG and I now have his written memories of a time past, a wonderful legacy indeed. In 1950 Geoff was working for Qantas in Darwin and this is where he met and married Lal, a marriage that was to last for 55 years. After living in Sydney and the UK they retired to Beechwood in 1987. Their 40 acres gave dad enormous joy, pottering in his vegie patch, watching his calves grow, loving his two devoted Kelpies and spending time with his two grandchildren. Ill health was starting to catch up with Geoff by the mid ’90s causing reduced mobility. As his outside activities diminished he threw himself into his childhood love of stamp collecting. This finally gave way to his first love, New Guinea. He became an ardent investigator of the Japanese invasion in WW2. My dad was a proud and passionate Australian always ready to right the wrongs, real or imagined. Margaret Henderson, who met Geoff through Una Voce and who had communicated with him for 10 years, felt that Geoff was on a mission to try and discover as much relevant information re WW2 to right the wrongs for many people as a result of the war in PNG. Geoff will be sorely missed by many ‘that likeable larrikin with the gift if the gab’ irreverent till the end! Geoff is survived by his wife, Lal, his daughter, Karen and two grandchildren. Karen Chambers


Dr Jan SAAVE, OBE (4 October 2006, aged 86 years)

From early post Pacific War to beyond Independence Jan was a government Medical Officer in PNG and for many years directed the Malaria Eradication Program. Harry West


Dr David LEWIS (15 September 2006, aged 68 years)

David went to Kar Kar Island from ASOPA in 1960 as Area Education Officer. He worked in PNG until 1974 with 2 years leave to study at ANU in 1972/73. He held positions in Madang and then in teacher education in Port Moresby, Madang and Goroka. When he returned to Australia he worked at Signadou in Canberra, Darwin Community College, Kangaroo Point TAFE and in Indigenous Health Programs at the University of Queensland until 2003. He published a book from his PhD thesis with ANU in 1996 entitled The Plantation Dream: Developing British New Guinea and Papua, 1884-1942. He also wrote biographies for the Australian Dictionary of Biography and articles on research in Aboriginal learning and health with Gillian Boulton-Lewis. He is survived by his wife of 46 years Professor Gillian Boulton-Lewis, his children Evan, Cynan, Rhys, Glyn, Gwen and Meg, and currently 11 grandchildren who all miss him sorely and believe he was too young to die. Gillian Boulton-Lewis


Dorothy ‘Doss’ PEDERICK (18 July 2006, aged 91 years)

Dorothy Alice Pederick, known as ‘Doss’ to family and friends, was born at Wagin, WA, in 1914. Raised on a farm she learned many practical skills, and from her parents absorbed a lively Christian faith. She became a nurse, and in 1940 gained her General Nurse’s Certificate with top marks in the State, later gaining further certificates in Midwifery, Mothercraft and Infant Welfare. In 1947 she offered her services to the Methodist Overseas Missions Board and was sent to Papua New Guinea. She served the people of New Britain and New Ireland for the next 20 years, except for an interval back in Wagin to care for her parents. Her work included general nursing, often far from a doctor and therefore making serious medical decisions, but with a strong emphasis on mothercraft and infant welfare. This entailed visiting villages for clinics on foot, by canoe or by workboat. Another activity was the organising of meetings for village women, where they learned sewing, handcrafts and Bible studies. Doss worked at Vatnabara in the Duke of York Islands, Gaulim in the Baining area of East New Britain, Malalia in West New Britain and Ranmelek on New Hanover. Doss’s sunny nature and thoughtfulness for others endeared her to the local people and to missionary colleagues alike. She treasured most the words of a mother to her child, who was crying at the sight of a white woman: ‘Ki mut, ki mut, koko u tangi! Vakir a pua nam, ia ra Sista’. (Hush, hush, don’t cry. That isn’t a white person, that’s Sister.) This indicated that Doss had been accepted as one of the tribe; and her name lives on in PNG in the people who, as babies, were named Doroti or Pederik after her. Doss returned to WA in 1967 and worked as a rural Child Health Nurse. But in 1974 she went back to New Britain and spent a year helping in the translation and revision of the Bible in Tinata Tuna, the language of the Tolai people, in which she was fluent. In the late 1970s she began a very active retirement in Wagin, taking in boarders and helping in church and community organizations. In 1988 she was named Wagin Citizen of the Year; in her acceptance speech she said, ‘As a pensioner, I consider myself paid by the community in which I live. My response is to work for that community. That’s all I do.’ Other honours followed, one of which, the Paul Harris Fellowship is the highest award Rotary International can bestow. At the age of 83 she surrendered her car license (much to the relief of her relatives!) but still went about on her pushbike to help others. Even when she acquired an electric ‘gopher’, she still often used the bike, saying that she could travel faster that way. But eventually she slowed down, and passed away last July. So ended a wonderful life of Christian faith and practical service to others. Neville Threlfall


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