Posted by Juliane Samara, 24 August 2015
She was our rock, our matriarch and an outstanding role model.
There are some people in this world who, no matter what challenges life throws at them, they rise up to meet them and come out the other side stronger, smarter and more resilient. My Nan, Rebecca May Palmer, was one of these people. Not only did she survive and recover from events in her life that others would consider insurmountable, she somehow managed to live life to the fullest, supporting others and helping them along the way. It’s my job today to give you just a tiny glimpse into her life story; in a very short time to somehow try to tell you about the wonderful woman that she was, and it is an absolute honour and privilege to be able to do so.
Rebecca May Gregory was born on the 25th December, 1925 at Williamsdale. Daughter of John Gregory and Renie Cartwright, she was one of 9 children. As a teenager, she worked at the Government Printing Office in Kingston and lived at the Causeway with her mother and brothers and sisters. It was here that she met Francis Jones (Frank) when he was on leave from the Army visiting his sister and they were later married in Cooma.
Times were tough and they could not afford a house. They lived in a tent in the snow with two young children – Gloria and Kay, trapping rabbits, skinning them and selling the skins to the tannery and the meat to the butchers to make a living. They then moved to a property called Moonbah near Jindabyne and Clyde and Ruth were born. Ruth was still only a toddler when Frank was tragically killed in a car accident, and the family moved to the Causeway in Canberra until they were allocated a war service home in Queanbeyan.
Several years later, she met her second husband ‘Shorty’ Palmer, when he knocked on the door of her house at 80 Tharwa Road to tell her that there was work being done on the pipes in her street. They later met again through neighbours and their friends the Bradleys, they fell in love and were married.
At different times in her life she worked in Eric Carle’s jewellery store, Woolworths, JB Young, and at Sylvia Parsons. In her retirement, Nan nursed her mother and her brothers Mark and Matt who had all had strokes. She also visited Tharwa every week to wash, clean house and care for her brother Dick who had skin and speech disorders, often doing battle with Billy the Goat who guarded his master just a little too well and liked to ram visitors whenever he could.
In 1990 Shorty died, leaving her a widow for the second time. Along her own rocky journey through life, she comforted her children in their difficult times and mourned four grandchildren – Clyde’s children Sarah, Rebecca and Douglas and Ruth and Viv’s son Mark, whose lives were sadly cut short. Not one to dwell on her misfortunes, she kept herself busy with bushwalking, providing community service through Legacy, volunteering for 15 years at George Forbes House, spending time with her family and in particular caring for her son Clyde and her dog, ‘Biggie’. When Clyde died suddenly in 2012 it seemed to be the last straw, and she seemed to suddenly start to look her age and feel tired. She adopted his little dog Foxie and this was a lifeline for Nan, giving her something to do and some company during the long lonely days and nights when she was mourning her son. Foxie meant the world to her.
Nan was a beautiful woman. Not just to look at – although everywhere she went people complimented her because she was always impeccably dressed and looked lovely – she was also truly beautiful on the inside. She was a devoted mother to her children and their partners, and a fantastic grandmother to 13 grandchildren, 30 great grandchildren, and 9 great-great grandchildren. She loved and cared for everyone, no matter who they were or what they had done in life. Her door was always open, the kettle was always quickly put on, and everyone was always welcomed in her home. She particularly befriended the lonely, the odd ones out, and those who were struggling. She was a great listener, a wonderful comforter, and a true friend.
She loved us, nurtured us and taught us. She was our rock, our matriarch and an outstanding role model. I only hope that someday I can become even half the woman that she was.
Nan, although I can no longer see you,
I feel your presence near.
I will hold you close in memory,
Until I drop my very last tear.
I can’t imagine life without you,
You leave an empty space
But the legacy you have given me
Is your love and amazing grace.
Rest in the arms of angels,
And those that you hold dear.
I will treasure all the memories,
And know you had no fear.