I wonder how many people are 99 when they discover what their mother looked like? Ness Carne, a resident of Mountain View Aged Care Centre, lost her mother before she began school. But thanks to the wonders of modern communications, a distant relative contacted Ness last year and then sent a small copy of an old cracked photo revealing a beautiful young woman.
Ness's parents married in North Queensland where her father was managing a cane farm. In preparation for Ness's birth, he built a high wooden Queenslander home that was finished on Friday March 8, 1918, paid for on Saturday March 9, and completely destroyed by the largest known Queensland cyclone on Sunday March 10. Financially, the newlyweds never recovered. Ness was born three months later on July 1, 1918.
In 1921, after the birth of another daughter, Ness's mum became gravely ill. Her father took the family to Victoria where he had a large extended family, and his wife could go to a sanitarium. Sadly, she did not recover, and was buried in Hamilton cemetery in 1923. These were during The Great Depression years, and Ness and her sister were passed around to many different relatives while their father went fencing and rabbit pelt trading to survive. Everything belonging to their mother was lost. There was not even a photo of her, and Ness grew up not knowing anything about her mother's siblings - though she had a vague infant memory of a favourite uncle she had nicknamed "Nu Tu".
Ness worked hard at school, often by correspondence, and became one of a handful of women to achieve a Municipal Clerk's Certificate. During the war, she became Shire Secretary of Birchip, in charge of rationing and asset lists, and treasurer for the NorthWest Shires and Burroughs. She married and had three daughters before relocating back to Queensland for her husband's health. One day, in the 1970's, in need of a plumber, she opened the Brisbane yellow pages and saw one with her mother's maiden name. Intrigued, she called, and when he arrived, it was her mother's brother. There followed a precious time of reconnection with her dear Uncle Wilfred. Sadly he had no photos of his late sister.
Ness and her husband retired to North Queensland to be closer to their eldest daughter. After Ness was widowed in 1989, she lived for some time with family at Balgal Beach and then moved into an aged care facility in Cardwell on the Coral Sea coastline. Though always mentally alert, Ness was physically frail and in need of a completely flat walking surface. In 2011 Cyclone Yasi forced 93 year old Ness to evacuate to Townsville where her grand-daughter drove through the palm littered streets to rescue her. She was transferred to family in Canberra as soon as the airport reopened, and arrived at Mountain View Aged Care Centre.
Completing the Circle
Happily, her youngest daughter lives nearby, and together they began to record Ness's memories. As her 100th birthday approached, family gathered documents and mementos, and circulated invitations. Then, in one post, her late Uncle Wilfred's daughter sent a small photo that had come via other relatives. At the age of 99, Ness finally saw an image of her mother. At her 100th birthday party at Mountain View, other photos from far away emerged, some with her mother's handwriting on the back.
Ness has now been able to find exactly where her mother was buried, and had a plaque made for the grave. She has also had the photo enlarged, restored and her mother's signature added. It was a wonderful gift and hangs proudly in her room. We give thanks for this period of grace in her life - for safety from cyclones, and for the restoration of family connections.
- Story submitted by Anne Maybanks.