George and Helen

“At the end, all you have are your friends, you don’t need your possessions or anything else, just friends. Most of mine are gone, but at 99 (years old), I made a new one in Helen. How lucky am I?”, says George.

It’s funny how two separate lives can come together at the very end to form a perfect union of love. This is what happened to Helen and George who met at Sapphire in 2013. When Helen first arrived at Sapphire Care she was in very poor health, but George took an immediate shine to her, offering support and companionship. In his company, Helen grew in strength from day-to-day. Since then, Helen and George have been like two peas in a pod, never far from one another. Now Helen glows with vitality!

Helen was born in 1928 in Melbourne. She lost her mother at just five years of age and was heartbroken, but was fortunate to have family to care for her. “My elder sister was marvellous and really looked after me”, says Helen. Her father was often absent, working as the Divisional Engineer for a huge district in Western Australia. When he remarried, Helen found herself part of a much larger family, with three additional siblings to embrace.

Her father passed away at 61 years of age. By this time Helen was an independent young woman who was building a career for herself as a nurse, training at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. She fell in love, got married and had two children but due to circumstances became a single mother. Whilst working hard and trying to support her two children, she met a man and remarried, increasing her family by three extra stepchildren. The big family lived in Brighton. Her new husband was a box entrepreneur who ran a factory, keeping him very busy.

In her spare time Helen began playing Bridge. She discovered that her hobby allowed her access to the community, where she offered help and assistance where needed. As Helen became more skilled at Bridge, she found that it took her overseas for tournaments, offering experiences she had only dreamed of.

George has just celebrated his centenary. He was born in 1914 to one of the most prestigious families in Bendigo, the Lansell’s. George remarks that “the family tree goes back to 1500” with the family making its money through the gold mine era. The Lansell legacy can be seen everywhere in Bendigo, from the fountain in the middle of town, to Fortuna Villa and the mansion on Chum Street hill. “We went there every Sunday,” says George. “It was enormous and it had three lakes and a yacht”.

George married his sweetheart just as World War II broke out. With his new bride he had a son not long after. George applied for a pilots position in the Air Force, but was rejected three times on the grounds that he was over qualified and better suited as a flight instructor for new recruits. He was determined to fly however and after 12 months of sending in applications, the Air Force finally accepted him into the winged ranks.

He started flying in New Guinea and finished his tour of duty in Heidelberg, Germany, returning home after the War as a decorated veteran. George fondly recollects when he took his camera up into the cockpit of the plane to get snap shots whilst flying over exotic locations.

After the War George discovered that his marriage had suffered at his absence. As it ended, he found himself returning to the sheep farm that he had been running before enlisting. George spent a total of 40 years running that property. During this time a couple that were close family friends lost their lives in an accident. He adopted their surviving son with no hesitation, adding to his family by one.

In the 1970’s he spent some time in Melbourne before heading to Cairns to run a cattle farm in the Kimberley region. George spent his career as a man on the land before finally retiring.

This decorated War pilot and ‘fair dinkum’ Aussie hero is now completely blind, however he has Helen to be his eyes, and in return he is her support. It’s a beautiful story of two distinctly separate lives, which have lived in service for others. In spite of the circumstances that life throws in the way, George and Helen have managed to find one another. They are an inspiration for lovers of love, everywhere.

Helmet

A life full of adventure, survival and invention is what makes Helmet so fascinating. One of the first bikers, he has ridden a motorbike around Australia and most of Europe, written a book, survived World War II and invented the humble dim sim machine!

Helmet was born in Germany in 1932. At that time his hometown of Essen was a major industrial centre with a bustling population of around 60,000. Essen was targeted with heavy bombing during World War II. While bombs dropped all around him, Helmet witnessed the loss of friends and family to the War. He remembers: “when the bombs would come, father would arrange for mother, my sister and I to get out of Essen and into the country with Oma (grandma)”.

Helmet survived this turbulent time, and by the time the War was over in 1945, he was a young teenage boy in high school. He cheekily recalls he and his friends would go out with the intention to find unexploded hand grenades in the fields! It’s hard to believe Helmet has made it into his 80’s considering that he and his friends would deliberately detonate the found munitions for fun!

These early years saw US occupation in Germany, which was a good thing in Helmet’s eyes as “the Americans brought industry back to Germany and created jobs.” Helmet was too young for the army but too old for Hitler youth, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

In 1949 Helmet decided on a trade as a fitter and turner and was soon working hard as an apprentice, which in those days was considered a privilege. He had a good relationship with his boss, who immediately recognised Helmet had a natural talent for building things. He not only trained Helmet as a fitter and turner, but also as an Engineer. Helmet finished his apprenticeship as a fully trained Engineer minus the official papers.

During this time Helmet was able to save enough money to buy his first motorbike. His boss would allow him to fix it up during his down time. Long before Hells Angels and Sons of Anarchy, there was Helmet on his 1933 NSU OSL 201 with a promised rating of 8hp at 5000 rpm. Helmet also bought a camera and with his bike would take holiday breaks to ride around Europe taking photos and exploring the countryside.

As a young man in 1956, Helmet decided adventure was the life for him. Having seen much of Europe on his motorcycle he made the choice to emigrate to Australia on the ‘10 pound scheme’. Recipients were also commonly known in Australia as ‘Ten Pound Poms’. This post World War II assisted immigration scheme helped Helmet come to Australia, with the only requirement of sound health. Upon his arrival he went straight to Collingwood and immediately began work as a fitter and turner. It wasn’t long before he sent for his childhood sweetheart and love of his life Ursula. Helmet and Ursula went on to marry and have three children.

As a couple they travelled Australia and the world, with Helmut making his mark on the Melbourne industrial landscape with the company HGC Engineering. Ursula worked as an Air Hostess with TAA for her entire career.

In the 1970’s, Helmet saw an opportunity in the fast food industry. Through his engineering firm Helmet invented the first dim sim machine that has never needed to be improved upon. Helmet’s company, which was to be eventually taken over by his sons, became a major company specialising in the custom design building and repair of food manufacturing machinery and equipment.

Although Helmet didn’t make millions from his ingenuity; his personal wealth comes from being “the proud father of three children, and grandfather of eight healthy and beautiful youngsters”. It would be an understatement to say Helmet embraced life: he travelled, explored, invented, and built a lasting legacy for his family. Helmet now lives at Sapphire Care Hilltop and loves any opportunity to regale his friends with stories of a life well lived.

Kath


Next time you’re wandering down Albert Park way, you might want to give a thought to Kath, one of Sapphire Care’s liveliest residents, now in her late 90’s. Kath and her sister ran the Albert Park Ladies Baths for 9 years during the 1950’s. After successfully petitioning council to run the baths, the sisters then went on to make on going improvements including a shop within the building.

Born to a large Catholic family in 1918, in North Fitzroy, Kath is the 2nd of 10 children. While Kath’s mother looked after the family, her father worked at MacPhersons chocolate factory. He remained there for his entire career of some 56 years, which is something almost unheard of today.

Kath and her family lived on Albert Park beach, in what sounds like an idyllic lifestyle; Kath would wake up, pull on her bathers and then head to the landing where she would dive off straight into the bay for a swim. She fondly recalls, “Pat, my sister and I would lie there in our beds and we would hear the water lapping underneath our beds when it was high tide.” As adulthood approached, Pat and Kath’s inseparable childhoods moved on to live different adventures.

Kath met her husband Harold in primary school when she was 10 years old. Later as young adults they moved in the same circle and maintained a friendship that eventually bloomed into a courtship. Harold was a pianist in a dance and Kath would accompany him to his gigs, where she recalls they “had great fun dancing”.

Harold and Kath were married “on the 6th of February, in 1943, at 3pm”. Kath adds cheekily “and that’s all I’m telling you about my wedding day!” They welcomed a son, whom they named Brian that same year. He grew up to become a fine and upstanding citizen, married with two children of his own. He followed in his parent’s footsteps until his untimely passing in 2010.

Kath remembers World War II being announced by Prime Minister Menzies on the radio. She remembers his chilling words were “… and as a result of that, we are at war with Germany.” Kath’s main concern at that time was more that Harold would have to enlist but instead Harold was needed in Australia. As an Engineer he was required in a ‘reserve industry’ and worked in the naval factory in Maribyrnong building the guns that went on naval ships.

Kath got work in 1940 at the munitions factory where she remained until she and Harold were married. The government policy at the time was that married women were not permitted to work and so she stopped. Kath says that even though she had to leave, management were still advertising for people to come and work in the factory.

Eventually the government had to change their policy, ‘temporarily’ allowing married women to work. Kath went back to the factory with her sister where they both had the opportunity to travel to other states to train people. While Kath’s sister moved to South Australia, Kath chose to stay in Melbourne.

A great community spirit has propelled Kath throughout her life. After Harold passed away suddenly in 1952, it was her family that rallied around her and her only child, encouraging them to move forward and pick up the pieces. Kath found work for Australia Post where she remained for over 20 years. She spent time at the Albert Park Post Office and then the GPO in the city.

Kath was always an active member of the community in South Melbourne. Even after retirement she was always busy at the South Melbourne Town Hall, helping community members. This included sewing, cooking and just generally being there with a smile on her face!

Kath is the proud matriarch of a large family, which includes two grandchildren and 20 nieces and nephews. She is now 96 years young and just as active in the Sapphire Care community as she ever was in the Bayside suburbs.

Lawrie

Imagine having a river walk named after you! Horsham Rural Council did just that, naming 2.6 kilometers of Wimmera River walkway after the man that had dedicated his time to revitalising and beautifying the town’s riverfront. The Lawrie Rudolph Walk is named in recognition of Lawrie’s vision and determination.

Having survived Osteomyelitis as a child, it is no wonder that Lawrie went on to grab every opportunity he had with both hands. Born in 1923 in Horsham and sick from the ages of 11until 19, Lawrie could barely walk. The ulcers in his bone kept him away from school. His father sold their farm, which had been in the family since 1880, to pay for Lawrie’s medical bills. “There was no Medicare in those days”, Lawrie remembers. “You had to pay your way.”

Lawrie’s father moved the family to Horsham onto a small irrigation property. Once Lawrie had fully recovered from the bone infection he went straight into the family business. Full of great ideas and innovation, Lawrie developed the farm into a thriving business of 3000 chickens. He also recycled the waste from the chicken pens to create fertiliser. This side of the business grew into a productive vegetable farming venture.

After Lawrie’s father sold the property, he gave Lawrie a few hundred pounds on the proviso that he went to work as a bookkeeper for the local Holden dealership. After three years the Manager, Lawrie, and a friend bought the dealership outright. Together they built a successful business which offered panel beating and repairs. Lawrie worked in this industry for 32 years and can boast that in 1950, his was the first car dealership in regional Victoria for Mazda and Mercedes. He employed many people in the region and at the time of his retirement had over 60 staff members.

Lawrie is perhaps most proud of his work involving the beautification of the Horsham and district area. As a Wimmera River Beautification Committee member for 24 years and chairman for eleven, Lawrie holds the honour of being the brains behind the revitalisation of the town’s waterfront. His forethought and ingenuity has, in as recent times as 2011, saved Horsham from severe flooding. The work Lawrie and his team completed on the riverfront meant heavy rainwater could flow more quickly through Horsham and not rise as high as it would normally. He organised a committee of members to assist in the beatification of the area, recalling in his youth that “in the summertime, when the water ran down, it was nothing but a putrid black hole.”

The committee put in watering systems, built a large sound shell, developed an Apex adventure island in the lake and built a bridge out to it for the children to access the island. The committee also designated a section of river to each of the service clubs in addition to starting a sporting club, which installed pokies. The profits from the pokies go directly back into the region. For his work, Lawrie was acknowledged with a Queens Order in 1976 and has had a book written about his work. The City of Horsham have erected a monument in honour of Lawrie, as well as naming the walkway. All of this work has been wonderful for charity for the region allowing numerous projects to go ahead.

Married in 1949, Lawrie and his wife went on to have a daughter during that year. In their later years, Lawrie’s wife was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and he spent 12 years caring for her before she passed away after 60 years of marriage. Lawrtie moved from Horsham to Ballarat and then eventually to Melbourne before settling into life at Sapphire Care where he remains an active in the community.

Lawrie can be seen daily delivering the papers to his neighbours and friends and always has the time to spin a yarn to any eager ears. It’s no wonder that many of his employees and friends from Horsham and the surrounding district still keep in touch with Lawrie.

Lawrie’s legacy is alive and well for all to see. People only have to take a stroll along Lawrie Rudolph Walk to see the huge difference he made, not just to peoples’ lives, but to the land which will live on long after he has gone.

“I’ve had quite an interesting life” says Lawrie, “and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Nell


Refined, dignified, intelligent, witty and artistic are just some words that come to mind when thinking of Nell. Born in 1926 and hailing from Sydney she grew up in the suburb of Artarmon It is safe to say that she was a woman ahead of her time. In 1850 Nell’s grandmother ran away from home in Ireland to come to Australia. She was just 14. It would seem Nell comes from great strength and tenacity, and this has been a feature of her life.


Taking inspiration from her grandmother, Nell was career driven and focused on helping others from early on. At 18 she started work as a nurse in an orphanage. It was around this time that she met her husband and life partner of 59 years, George. Nell remembers the first time she laid eyes on him at a party in his army-supplied post World War II brown suit. She was most unimpressed. What developed however was a marvellous love story.

Before email or the Internet, people met and fell in love in many different ways. Nell recollects that after the party, she and George ended up back at her friend’s house. Nell assumed he was her friend’s new boyfriend and her friend assumed the very same of Nell. The next day, on her way to work, Nell noticed George following her. He got on the same bus, but kept a safe distance. As she got off the bus and started to walk to work, Nell realised that George was still following her. She recalls walking faster and faster, getting all the more frightened as he continued to follow. By this time she arrived at the orphanage, Nell was so petrified that she raced in and slammed the front gates in his face, only to hear George say “might I have the presumption of writing to you?” Nell stuttered a bewildered “Yes.”

In those days, the mail was delivered twice a day and by the time the afternoon mail was delivered, a letter from George arrived. From then on “we were just like magnets” says Nell. The courtship commenced from there. Her mother never approved and would send her £2.00 a month just to “leave that awful man.” They scandalously had their first child in 1948, before they were married! But her mother needn’t have worried, because George and Nell were together for over 59 years.

Today nobody would be concerned about a child out of wedlock, but back then people were appalled by the mere idea of an unmarried couple living together. In 1952 they were eventually married, “on a whim” Nell says. She was heavily pregnant with their second child at the time and in 1957 their third child was born.

Together Nell and George were always an artistic and creative couple, a gift amplified and nurtured by their union. They moved from Melbourne to Eltham where they built a house and their family just before the arrival of their second. They named their new house ‘Berak’, an aboriginal term recognising the original indigenous landowners, another deed ahead of its time.

George worked as an artist for the Herald newspaper. Between some of his more mundane jobs, including colouring in the black boxes on the crossword puzzles, Nell recalls one of his most exciting jobs was when he was asked to draw a caricature of Pope John Paul II.

Nell was a working mother. Although she was a fully trained nurse, she decided to do a preschool teaching course when her eldest child was approaching school age. When Nell acquired her qualifications, she went on to run the local kindergarten. Nell remembers she use to bring her youngest child to work. The kindergarten children loved to play with him, pretending he was the ‘baby’ of preschool.

Despite working full-time, Nell continued her education and went on to get her librarian’s degree from Melbourne University. During her studies, Nell found part-time employment as a Library Assistant at Preston East Boys Technical School. When she graduated, Nell became the Librarian and also worked as a teacher.

Nell was blessed to be able to travel in her chosen profession, with jaunts to China teaching English. George fully supported her, staying back in Melbourne to care for their children while Nell travelled. Nell has lived a life dedicated to the service of others: she has been a nurse, a kindergarten teacher, a librarian, and a schoolteacher. Nell has also raised a beautiful family and she is proud to say that all of her children attended University. All are married and Nell now has eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

“A woman makes herself.” Nell muses. It would seem she most certainly did!

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