Freda celebrates life of family and service

A wartime photograph of Cobber and Freda.
A wartime photograph of Cobber and Freda.

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

The blessing was in recognition of her decades of service to her church and the York community.

Freda moved from York a few years ago to live with her daughter and family at Secret Harbour.

True to her faith, she still says her morning and evening prayers.

Freda said she became involved in church and community work as a 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 churchgoer, 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.’

Freda’s parents Joe and Mary Marwick had 11 children.

The oldest 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 only two bedrooms, a lounge and a kitchen.

‘But we didn’t sleep in the bedrooms,’ Freda said. ‘They were for visitors. We slept on the veranda in summer and winter.

‘My father made hessian petitions for a bit of privacy, though 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 and they married on August 14, 1939, at St Patrick’s, where her parents were married 44 years earlier to the day.

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 York sporting and community groups.

During World War II, Freda’s husband served with the Australian Army in New Guinea. Four of her brothers and several brothers-in-law also served overseas with the army.

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

Freda said she enjoyed her 100th birthday and chatting to family and friends.

And with a twinkle in her eye, added that she was looking forward to her next 100th.