Vale Eugowra's Helen Perry: family pays tribute to very special lady

Helen Mary Perry passed away on December 2, 2021.

MUCH-LOVED: Helen Mary Perry passed away on December 2, 2021, and her children and grandchildren have shared their memories and tributes. Picture: Supplied

MUCH-LOVED: Helen Mary Perry passed away on December 2, 2021, and her children and grandchildren have shared their memories and tributes. Picture: Supplied

This tribute was prepared by her children, and read by Megan Perry:

"Faith, hope and charity.

Faith in Jesus,

Hope in ourselves,

Charity for those less fortunate than me."

Helen Perry wrote these words in 2011, and these were the guiding principles of her life.

An extraordinary faith that was so deep and could not be questioned; hope in today and the future, and compassion and charity for those less fortunate.

Helen carried Christ in her heart and lived a life of love and service. Whilst she was sometimes disappointed by the physical manifestation of that faith - the church - her faith in God was never challenged.

Helen Mary Pepper was the first child of Ian Hamilton Pepper, known as Jack, and Dorothy Anastasia Desmond and was born in Cowra on 25 June 1929. Janet, Richard, and Anne soon followed. The family lived on a property at Goolagong and in 1944, at 15, Helen left school to work at the Goolagong Post Office.

Training as a mothercraft nurse at Crown Street Women's Hospital, was followed by a position at St Joseph's Children's Home at Heidelberg in Melbourne. She could remember the names of some of those children 60 years later - such was the impact this had on her.

In 1957 she accepted a post at the Eugowra War Memorial Hospital where she met farmer Jerry Perry - at the Eugowra trots. They married and moved to Oberon Street Eugowra, where she would reside for the next 63 years. The births of Richard, Megan, Laurence, David, Caroline, Katherine, Madeline, and Judith followed between 1958 and 1973.

Oberon Street was a noisy, lively, busy place. However, it was the front of St John the Baptist Church at Eugowra, where Helen conducted business - she was on many committees and organisations.

To name a few, Helen was

  • a founding member of The St Joseph's Catholic Women's league and served for many years as the treasurer.
  • a member of the Parish Council.
  • a passionate supporter of St Joseph's Primary school.
  • also had a huge part in organising the World Day of Prayer each year.

Helen was deeply committed to the people of Eugowra through her active participation in the:

  • Eugowra Progress Association and town beautification in the 80's, 90's and 2000's.
  • Fundraising to build the self-care units and the Childcare Centre.
  • Hospital Auxiliary, View Club, Craft Cottage, and Museum Committees.
  • Meals on Wheels which saw her delivering meals well into her 80's

One of the great joys of her life was being appointed for the Eugowra Australia Day Achievement Award on 26 January 2002 - An acknowledgement of outstanding community service which had brought distinction to and increased the profile of Eugowra and District during many years of dedicated service.

Helen lovedthis acknowledgement because she had been nominated by the townspeople of Eugowra - the community that she so loved.

Helen very quietly sought out people who were doing it tough - the Craft cottage provided an endless source of gifts when she could see someone struggling.

She looked out for the disenfranchised, the lonely and the forgotten and always sought to make their lives a little richer and reminding them they were not alone.

Her wider community service was evidenced through her establishment of the

  • Cancer Council World'sGreatest Morning Tea which held its 20th Anniversary this year.
  • The Wrapt with Love charity at Eugowra
  • The excellent cooking of the famous butter cakes, chutney, and marmalade jam for the many street stalls.

And her participation in the town's efforts to establish of the Rural Transaction Centre and her participation in the Quilters group

The kitchen table was the Centre and heart of our home. Her garden was her great love - her solace and her joy, and the source of sadness during drought.

Helen's cultural life was rich.

  • She was a huge reader - not only of the Herald but of fiction. She loved the movies and Barbara Bruce's piano recitals, and her trips to Canberra.
  • She especially like to go to the Art Gallery of NSW and the Opera House to see the latest exhibition, opera or concert.
  • Helen drove millions of kilometres between Eugowra and Cowra, Goolagong, Orange and Forbes in the latest kangaroo dented station wagon with children of various ages aboard.
  • As she grew older her incredible independence saw her navigate the electric train from Orange to the Country Platform at Central Station on her latest adventure, or rescue mission.
  • Her shopping tours of the Sydney CBD were legendary - first Farmers, Mark Foys, and David Jones, and then the Macquarie Centre. Helen's energy was legendary as she dashed from store to store and tested every coffee shop along the way
  • Helen always loved fashion and in her later years kept Fella Hamilton and Ziera shoes in business.

And then the unconditional love that only a grandmother could have for her grandchildren - Nicholas, Josie, Nina, Bas, Gabby, Tim, Jacob, Ashley, Ben, Lucy, Alex, Daniel, Jack, Samuel, Luke, Ethan, Angus and Patrick and most recently her first great grandchild Finbarr Richard Perry - born on Helen's 91st birthday. Helen was their greatest ally and they all so loved her.

I could speak for another hour about our beautiful, extraordinary, complicated, loving mother who followed her own unique life path and taught us all how to live and love and, in the end, how to die.

Helen is now with Jerry, her lifelong partner, who were both dearly dedicated to each other and to us.

We have received many loving messages from those whose lives were touched by her and I would like to finish with one message which seems to sum Helen up very well.

"Quite a profound thought - this afternoon on the bus home from work. I was thinking of Eugowra - and I thought of Helen I thought the world of her- she was always so real and wise and looked beyond...something happens when your mother dies - the world is now different".

This tribute was prepared by Helen's grandchildren, and read by Jack O'Donnell:

All of us have uniquely special memories of our time with Nan, countless stories and reflections that will stay with us forever. But one consistently common experience was the anticipation when approaching Oberon Street Eugowra wondering if we would be lucky enough to have Nan's famous meat pie or would it be the most tender lamb cutlets from the local butcher that Nan talked of so proudly.

Nan set an example for all of us from an early age around the importance of community.

There are countless examples of her commitment to the community that she ensured was not lost on us, whether it was assisting with meals on wheels, helping with the biggest morning tea, supporting the local café or introducing us all to her friends so proudly.

Beyond the local community the story of blankets being hand knitted by Nan in Eugowra for underdeveloped countries was a story well-travelled throughout our schools. But more than anything, Nan firmly cemented our place, as her grandchildren in the community of Eugowra, leaving us so proud to announce ourselves as Helen Perry's granddaughters and grandsons.

Our Nan had the most beautiful balance of been fiercely independent yet so gentle and kind.

We can just imagine nan enduring the long train trip to Sydney yet making sure that she said hello to her fellow passengers, accompanied by her kind smile.

We all have fond memories of Nan's stays with us, often providing our parents support at times during their lives.

Coming home from school, Nan was always ready to ask about our day accompanied by some afternoon tea... but this wasn't happening until we rigorously washed our hands with hot water and soap the moment we walked in the door.

What surprised us all about Nan was her well-travelled life that was rich with experience... it is no wonder that she wanted great things for us, as she had carved out such a full life herself.

Nan had many endearing qualities. One of her most unique qualities was the love she had for all of us, and her commitment to form a special bond with all grandchildren.

We reflect on walks through the garden with Nan where she would ask us detailed questions about how our friends were, always remembering their names like they were her own grandchildren.

What we had planned for our futures was always of interest to Nan, never passing judgement... just listening and supporting our path.

Nan wanted everyone together and not a Christmas or family event went by where the boys wouldn't get an upfront warning to make sure that Josephine, Lucy and Gabrielle were not left out of any games. There was nothing like a Christmas with Nan and Pop in Eugowra.

We all loved our Nan, and we know that she loved us. But we all know that Nan would want us to continue to live a full life, remembering our commitment to our communities, to our families and to strive for greatness.

This view was well summarised by Nan walking through Cowra War Gardens where she remarked on the bonsai trees, "I feel very sorry for them, because they are being held back from growing to their full extent, and that they should be allowed to grow free".

Nan you're our hero, our role model, we love you and we will miss you.

Jack O'Donnell