Accolades for centenarian

In the weeks before her 100th birthday, Freda was busy receiving letters of congratulation from well-wishers, including the Queen, Governor General Quentin Bryce, the Prime Minister and an apostolic blessing from Pope Francis.

The blessing was in recognition of her decades of service to her church and the York community. However, Freda retired from York a few years ago to live with her daughter and family at Secret Harbour. But true to her faith, she still says her morning and evening prayers.

Freda said she became involved in church and community work as a young girl attending the Sisters of Mercy Convent in York. ‘My father loved the nuns and would do anything for them,’ she said.

‘Unlike my mother, he wasn’t a great church-goer, but he was always doing things for the nuns. He even gave them a cow so they could have fresh milk, and then he got me to milk it for them. I don’t know where he got the cow from though; I think he pinched it.’

Like many country families of the time, Freda came from a large family. Her parents Joe and Mary Marwick had 11 children. The eldest girl, Eleanor (Cis), was 17 when Freda was born.

‘Cis looked after my two younger siblings and me,’ Freda said. ‘We thought she was our mother for the first three or four years. Cis did everything for us.’

Freda’s former York home was built in the 1880s and is still standing; it has two bedrooms, a lounge and a kitchen. ‘But we didn’t sleep in the bedrooms,’ she said. ‘They were for visitors. We slept on the veranda in summer and winter.

‘My father made hessian petitions for a bit of privacy, although we girls dressed in the lounge room. The boys dressed where they could.

‘I had to do more than my share of the housework when we were young, because my sisters were able to get out of work. Jean always had a headache and Paul (Pauline) never felt well when there were jobs to do. Mum would say, ‘Freda, you’re the healthy one, you better get on with the work’.’

Freda met her husband Charles Norman (Cobber) while at school. ‘We were married from the cottage in Saint Patrick’s Church, on the 14th August 1939; my parents were married from the cottage in St Patrick’s on the 14 August 1895,’ she said.

Freda’s granddaughters Kathryn, Louise and Sally estimate she made at least 130,000 lamingtons and thousands of scones and sandwiches raising money for the Sisters of Mercy and various York sporting and community organisations.

During WW II, Freda’s husband Cobber served in the Australian Army in New Guinea. Four of her brothers and several brothers-in-law also saw wartime army service overseas.

Sadly, Cobber, who like Freda, was very community minded, died in 1983.

Freda said she enjoyed her 100th birthday and with a twinkle in her eye, added that she was looking forward to her next 100th.