Tribute for the Life of – Elizabeth Kean Oam (1927-2022)

Middle Dural resident Elizabeth Kean OAM (pictured right) passed away on 25 July 2022. She would have turned 95 years old on 15 September.

Elizabeth was awarded the Order of Merit Australia in June 1998 for her services to the communities of Castle Hill and Baulkham Hills, particularly through the Hills Community Aids and Information Services and the Australian Red Cross. Her daughters Marilyn, Roslyn, and Alison dedicated this tribute to their beloved mum.

Elizabeth Jones was born on 15 September in Canowindra, NSW to become the 8th child and 4th daughter to Kathleen and Norman Jones. Maureen was to become the younger sister and a future bridesmaid. Brian, from Queensland, was the 10th child, evening the score to 5 boys and 5 girls.

At the young age of 7, she joined the Australian Junior Red Cross in Canowindra and continued this membership and service throughout her adult life. She attended local government schools and was a great hockey player, travelling extensively around the central west for tournaments

On leaving school, she trained as a nurse, serving in many Sydney hospitals and the beginning of a life of caring for others. Through the Elizabeth Kean Metropolitan Achievement Cup, which is awarded annually to a small metropolitan Red Cross branch for outstanding achievement, she continues to support the recognition of other members and volunteers for their service.

An older sister, Lynn, married a local Arcadia boy Ted Heather, and she found herself visiting to mind their daughter Jill, whilst Lynn was in hospital for the birth of Richard, and on this visit she met Percy Kean. They announced their engagement only 5 weeks later. Aunty Freda recalls being there for every step along the way.

As children growing up on the Kean family farm in Calabash Road, Arcadia, we recall peeling fruit with mum in the evenings to make the perfect jars of preserved fruits to enter the Castle Hill Show.

We cooked scones for morning tea after church and always shared the washing up. There were evenings of social tennis and mid-week tournaments between Calabash Club and Greenheys organised by mum and Madge Roughley, another fundraiser for the church aid.

These matches were followed by afternoon teas and huge pots of leaf tea filled from the copper in the laundry and carried across the paddock to the tennis shed in their brightly coloured tea cossies, the perfect pikelets to enjoy, and a fresh picked ripe watermelon.

Aunty Freda recalls the family club being called “Can They Bash” before officially being renamed” Calabash”. There was always a joke to be shared amongst the Keans. No doubt mum preferred Calabash.

There was the bookkeeping to help run the farm, sharing the school drop offs and collections when we didn’t ride our bikes, the P&C meetings at Berrilee Primary, helping with phone calls during bushfire season, and all the behind the scenes organising food and drinks for the Arcadia Fire brigade, helping pack the eggs and oranges on weekends to get to market on time, and always having a home cooked meal to enjoy at the end of a busy day.

Aunty Freda recalls that Betty was an exceptional cook and shared her enthusiasm for cooking with close friends, guiding them with her latest recipes. Numerous cakes were baked for fundraising with the Ladies Aid at the family Arcadia Methodist Church. Courses were attended with young Freda, like the June Dally Watkins School of Etiquette and Deportment in Chatswood in 1956 and cooking demonstrations at the Hornsby Council Showrooms.

Traveling the east coast of Australia with the little caravan was an annual highlight, before becoming regular tent dwellers over the summer at the Palm Beach camping grounds. Our tent even had homemade curtains as dividers room and a carpeted floor. Several cousins would join for those endless summer days of beach and fun.

Mum loved all the crafts, especially knitting, and made numerous pure wool jumpers and cardigans for us all. She attended dress making at Hornsby TAFE, where Alison would meet her after school, and later she completed a textile course at Strathfield TAFE in the early 80s and conquered the electric knitting machine. New outfits often appeared after hours at her classic Singer sewing machine. At the age of 60, she embarked on a Uni Degree and graduated from the University of Technology Sydney, with a degree in Business Administration.

For many years, she held season tickets to the Sydney Symphony Concert season, often accompanied by a family member in later years. Her grandchildren have all enjoyed a special friendship with her, gathering at her house for the ritual birthday afternoon teas and recently extending this to the great-grandchildren.

Last Xmas the house was filled with music from the recently restored family grand pianola playing favourites such as Blue Heaven, which brought back the memories of social gatherings in Calabash Road. Over the years, the extensive entries in her diaries kept us all on our toes. If the weather was being extreme she could reflect on exactly what had happened on this day last year and the year before.

If you were one of the many friends to drop in and have a chat, your visit became a diary entry to be enjoyed and relived at a later date. Every event throughout the day was recorded, she fooled everyone with her age if taking a phone call, sounding as she had always done for the past 30 years. Her memory for detail was amazing, even a couple of weeks ago recalling the detail of travelling in Italy in 1978, and having the Pope bless a gold chain she had purchased to bring back to Australia for her close friend and neighbour Merna Long.

Mum’s awards and achievements are extensive, including the Centenary award celebrated in 2003. Every awardee had a cardboard statue of themselves placed on the lawns in front of the New Parliament House, a wonderful installation, showcasing the generous nature of so many Australians. One of her proudest memories was the receiving of her OAM at Government House, Sydney in June, 1998.

Over the years, she has been a support to so many, caring for her own mother during her later years, also her own siblings, and she has always been a support for her sister-in-law Freda. We are very proud to say we have all cared for her to our best ability, with special thanks to Kim, Nuri and Manesha her carers from Australian Unity. Mum was gracious and in control during her last weeks and paralleled so much of her own life to that of the Queen, often stating “she is having difficulty with her mobility just like me”.

The beautiful message found recently, written a few years ago, shares a tribute to her husband Percy of 69 years and is a testament to their love. “To my dear husband Percy, with love and thanks, you make the bad times bearable and the good times magical” To Mum, on behalf of so many, thank you.

Elizabeth Kean OAM