The impetus for this blog came out of many years tracing my family history and long talks and explorations of Wangaratta with family members. One of those family members was my dear Uncle Bert who had a wonderful memory and fabulous sense of humour, and a willingness to share everything he knew and had experienced. He was also a gentleman in the true meaning of word. His charm, grace and dignity were a wonder to experience and a life lesson for us all. Uncle Bert was born Albert Edgar Moore on 27th June 1910 to James Edgar Gordon Moore and Caroline Ann (nee Ritchie) at Bendigo, where his maternal grandmother Jane was living. Bert lived in Wangaratta all his life and married Agnes Elizabeth Cordy in Wangaratta in 1932 at the Church of Christ on the corner of Rowan and Baker Streets.
Bert was the big brother of my Grandma Alma, after whom this blog is named. Alma married Ivan Keith Jackel, also in the Church of Christ, on 10th August 1940. Together, Bert and Alma spent many hours discussing their family and how they lived, at first at Appin and then from around 1920 in Moore Street, and the shop that their father had in Murphy Street. Their generosity in sharing all their memories, in identifying photos and telling tales when their memories were triggered in walks or drives around the town was deeply appreciated, not to mention entertaining. Bert was a keen family historian and wrote several memoirs – of his life during his service in WWII, and of his childhood and family.
Sadly, we lost Bert in October 2000, five months after his 90th birthday. And we lost my darling grandmother Alma on the 1st July 2015 at the wonderful age of 99 years and 4 months. Grandma was the last of the five children of James Edgar Gordon (Gordy) Moore, and the last of the six children of Caroline Ann Moore (nee Ritchie). It was a great privilege to have known both Bert and Alma, and to have experienced their kindness, love and compassion and I will always be indebted to them. There is so much to say about my grandmother and our talks but I will leave this post with a eulogy that I gave at her funeral. Sweet dreams darling.
It is my great privilege and honour to be able to say a few words in tribute to my darling Grandma today.
Alma Caroline Moore was born on the 7th February 1916 at Mrs West’s private hospital in Templeton Street, Wangaratta. She was the fourth child of Caroline Ann Ritchie and James Edgar Gordon Moore (known as Gordy). Apparently the family thought she was going to be the last child as she was nicknamed Bub, a name she retained throughout her life. Her siblings were Bert, Dick, Edna (known as Poppy), and the baby Jack, who was 7 years Grandma’s junior. Her early life was spent on the small family farm where Appin Park Primary School is, and the family moved into Moore Street around 1920. Alma was always very close to Dorrie Ritchie whom all the Moore children thought was a cousin. It was only in 1987, after over 80 years of silence that Dorrie revealed she was actually the Moore children’s older half sister. They were all absolutely delighted and said that they had always known that Dorrie was special.
Grandma reflected on her close knit family when I recorded her memories in 2001.
“Oh, we were always a very happy family together. We all got on very well with one another. I don’t ever remember squabbling about anything. I always admired my eldest brother Bert. For some reason I thought he was quite wonderful. And even up to the time he died, we still empathised with one other. We seemed to read one another’s minds. We were on the same wave length.”
It was this close knit family that assisted Grandma through the darkest days after her mother died when she was seventeen. The house had to be kept, meals had to be cooked and 10 year old Jack had to be cared for. A family meeting was held and it was decided that Grandma would give up work and become the housekeeper.
“So I stayed home after that, and tried to keep house. Not that I could ever do it as well as Mum did because she seemed to make a home. I always admired Mum, the way she’d be able to make scones. Seemed to be one of those things that we always had at home – scones. I missed her very much but you were a family. I suppose everybody missed her just as much as I did.”
Now, I could go on with Grandma’s biography for hours but I really want to turn to who she was as a person.
I believe these early family experiences along with her peaceful, gentle nature underpinned Grandma’s whole philosophy on life. Married for 36 years and widowed for over 38 years, she never complained about being lonely. When my Grandpa Ivan died suddenly in 1976 she soldiered on with the family business, not wanting to be a burden to anyone. When her siblings Edna, Bert and Jack each passed away she lamented how much she missed them and how good they were to her, but never made it about herself by speaking of loneliness.
Grandma was a very strong and stoic person with simple needs. She had no interest in the trappings of life such as clothes or jewellery. Despite describing herself as a dullard once, she could hold a mean conversation about politics, world affairs and religion. She watched the news avidly [and Question Time in Parliament!] and would do the Herald Sun crossword every day.
I have wonderful memories of holidays with Grandma in Swan Street where I was enveloped in her extended family and treated as their own. Her home was a sanctuary of warmth and compassion. Her desserts were also notable – cooked mostly in the wood fired stove. Her perfect scones I have never been able to emulate. Her passionfruit sponges, and sponges with cream and jelly on top will remain one of my favourite childhood memories and one that invokes involuntary licking of the lips. She taught me to knit and to crochet with exemplary patience. The wood fire that was the center of the home and the calm, comforting nature of the house in Swan Street evoke memories of a place where everything seemed right with the world. The old adage that home is where the heart is, was certainly true with Grandma.
Grandma had her moments and pet hates of course, but she stuck by everyone through thick and thin. She was always there for everyone, taking an active interest and asking questions about everyone’s lives. She had a very wide connection with family, probably borne out of her early years as a surrogate mother for her siblings. She was finely tuned into what was important to other people, knew how they were feeling, knew what to say, and at times knew when to shut up.
Grandma had true friendships that lasted a lifetime. When she moved to St Johns she made new friends – friends who taught her new ways to laugh and enjoy life. Most notable amongst these was her dear friend Maisie Nixon with whom she could complain about people who could not make a decent scone. Maisie is also famous for utterly corrupting Grandma by teaching her to read the form guide so they could follow the races together.
Grandma could name, and discuss with real interest the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of all her siblings. She was interested in everyone and often expressed worry about family members. She worried about her brother Bert’s granddaughter living in the US, so far away. She worried about how her individual great grandchildren were faring. I will miss being told as a 50 something year old that she worried about me driving back to Melbourne alone and lamenting that I was driving into the setting sun – something I think she said for 30 years. I will miss her sometimes wicked sense of humour and her sweet innocence that made us all laugh. At her 99th birthday party Grandma was presented with a hand-made birthday card by Gemma, one of Judy Field’s grandchildren. As delighted as she was, she was also taken aback and declared that she thought she was only 97.
Grandma always thanked everyone, from her family members to nursing home staff, for anything they did for her. She had an amazing ability to connect with people. Her personal pleasure came in those simple things such as seeing family members. She never complained about how long it had been since she saw someone. She was merely grateful that they were there. In her home, and later at St Johns she took simple pleasure from seeing ducks on the lawn outside her room, and watching the leaves change colour in autumn – and she expressed how lucky she was to be able to see those things. She was quite content to sit with me holding her hand and just look out her window. She had an ability to live in the moment and take all that she had as a blessing.
Grandma’s heart was full of simple gratitude that exemplified her humble life. I will always be grateful for the gifts her pure and gentle love gave me.
My darling Grandma, I leave you with this:
In our hearts you will always stay, loved and remembered every day.
Thank you for the years we shared, the love you gave, and the way you cared.