A Wonderful Mother: Janet Doreen Kentish (née Cooper)1
7 December 1926 to 28 September 2017
Our wonderful mother Janet (‘Blinkie’ , ‘Jannie’) was a wonderfully caring person to us, her extended family and her many precious and valued friends. A fabulous mother.
There are four of us: me, Wendy, David and Nigel. Mum produced us in five years, between 1950 and 1955, and this very brave strategy really set the tone for our early lives, and her incredibly busy life as a totally committed mother to four very different children. That commitment and great love did not waiver once in her very long and sometimes difficult life.
Mum was raised in a very unusual household for her time. At Cremorne she was brought up with her three older brothers Truxton, Bruce and Philip by our grandmother Marjorie Cooper (Gi Gi), whose marriage collapsed when Mum was a little girl. Gi Gi became a single parent in an era when divorce was unheard of, and certainly never discussed openly. Gi Gi’s parents-in-law, the Coopers, our great grandparents, supported Gi Gi, and she cared for veterans from the Boer War: she had studied nursing, and could care for them in the family home.
Mum met her father, Lesley Cooper, just once, when she was 16. Much, much later in life she was by absolute chance able to meet her father’s other family. Her father’s second family knew nothing about Mum, her brothers or Gi Gi. Extraordinary. Lesley re-married and had another four children, and dismissed the past. The new and totally unexpected family relationship and exposure to her father’s life and history gave her great pleasure, and I think some closure about a misty part of her life.
Mum was very much at home with her friends from school, SCEGGS Darlinghurst. They mostly had what mum considered to be ‘proper’ families, and she relished her school days. As her brothers had attended Shore, she made lots of friends there as well. Many became lifelong friends.
After leaving school Mum became a teacher, and taught at Mosman Preparatory school where people like John Laws were her pupils. She loved the fact she had taught some famous boys! She loved her sport, especially tennis, surfing and swimming, but never walking. Too boring. She could still stand on her hands at the age of 46, for heaven’s sake. Wen remembers this very well. Bit of a show off, Mum.
She adored her friends. They were immensely important to her, and she was fabulous at keeping in touch on birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. She loved writing letters and cards and rarely forgot anyone’s special day. This extended to her children’s friends and families as well, and as she aged, the telephone address book had to be updated every so often so she could remain in touch with all those so important to her, as her deteriorating eyesight prevented her from writing clearly. There are very dear friends here today of many ages, backgrounds and historical links because she cared so much for everyone and loved them unreservedly.
It was very important to Mum that she dressed beautifully, and she did. She danced beautifully with Bill, our father, and later on with anyone she could drag onto the dance floor, and even by herself. She and Dad were a stunning couple on the dance floor, they loved their jazz, big bands and company. They also entertained for business constantly throughout our young lives.
A great part of Blinkie’s life involved moving from home to home as our father bought houses, renovated them and moved onto the next one. Our first home as at was at Bungan Head, Newport, near the old sandstone Castle. Dad built the house and Mum juggled four children on Bushrangers Hill, which Wendy and our neighbour John Seelenmeyer managed to set on fire before we moved to Mosman.
Mum loved our Mosman house, and showed her significant flair for design and decorating. Dad did the building/renovation bits, and she pulled the whole thing together. What style. Wen and I remember sitting on the staircase as the adults played the vinyl and jived, rock and rolled everywhere so beautifully. Music was so important to Mum, and we as children were so lucky to grow up with this influence. We remember surfing, Dad fishing, rowing out to Newport reef to fish with his friends, building endlessly, and Mum being the absolute core, the backbone of our family … Our really annoying, always right person.
She gave us full and very happy young lives growing up with sport swimming, playing, football, basketball, tennis. Driving us everywhere in her Hillman Husky. Knitting doggy jumpers in the football team colours for our various pets, sewing hockey uniforms for our regional hockey team, and being on all the sidelines cheering her children on.
Working part time provided extras Mum wanted for our family. The job she loved most was with Renee and Franz Maree, at Facade, their fashion couture outlet in Mosman. Renee’s family and their design, production, retail clothing business was quite extraordinarily European and stylish. Renee is still a close friend.
Cars. David and Nigel managed to nearly wipe out a couple of Mums cars. She loved her cars. Always pristine, always with music blaring. The last car was a little soft top sports car bought when she was in her early 80’s. It turned nearly upside down in a ditch all by itself one evening when she lived across the paddock from Ian and me, just after farewelling us having had 5 0’clock drinks. She lived just across the paddock from us. Ten minutes later this dishevelled woman reappeared! We extracted the straw from and in her hair, collected as she climbed out of one window and walked back to our house to tell us what had happened. She was 84. Our wonderful potato farmer neighbours, popped the car up the right way with a tractor next morning.
Mum ‘s history, involving how many houses she lived in, how many times she had to move from location to location, is too large to deal with here. Just know that we moved as a young family, and our mother continued to move all her life, through circumstances beyond her control.
At the age of 70 she moved back to Sydney from Noosa, where they had moved. Through her substantial network she took jobs living in people’s homes and caring for them looking after shopping, driving, giving them company and being a companion. Having decided she could no longer live with her husband, our father, she took her feisty independent self back to the town and people she loved. Mum then lived with me on various occasions, in Sydney, the Southern Highlands and Ballarat. Then eventually and necessarily she moved to Aged Care facilities at Bundanoon, near Ian and me, and ended at Merrimbula, close to Wen, who has been looking after her needs for the last three years.
Throughout her life Mum was unfailingly graceful. She suffered many hurts, times when she was angry, resigned, resentful, but she remained absolutely open, warm, an encompassing and funny human being. A very loyal and private person.
She called herself a Pollyanna, (seeing the positive side to every situation) and her refreshing naivety never left her. Her spirit remained young and optimistic always, even when she was diminished by a series of strokes, and then had to live in aged care. She kept the carers on their toes with her ciggie addiction, and managed to live life with dignity when we know it was very difficult for her.
Would you like a glass of wine, Mum? Just a splash, darling. I think I have run out of Sherry, darling. Whoops! Scooting, sitting backwards on her walker down the hallways at the home, was one trick they failed to stop. After her death, the staff at the home, were quite emotional and told us it had been a privilege to know and care for her. We are all better for knowing her. Four hugs a day Blinkie always said was the minimum for happiness. We all hug you today, our gorgeous mother. Many many hugs. We love you Blinkie and we miss you.
The following little pieces are from her grand-daughters.
By Pippa Mills (née Kentish)7
While we did not see much of our grandmother, we were lucky enough to have her presence in our lives. When we were young she was fierce and fascinating, and some of the things we remember best about her, are her beautiful silver and blue pill box, and cigarette case travelled with her everywhere. Her rings, she would happily tell all the stories for each ring. Her lipstick, always vibrant and her perfume, entwined with smoke.
She instilled in us a very strong sense of social etiquette, no elbows on tables, no hats inside, don’t talk back, in fact don’t speak unless spoken too. As we grew, these rules relaxed. We remember the visits we had with her at home, but more so, at great places like Palm Beach, and later Wildes Meadow with the tennis court and concrete roller! And much later in Tasmania, she celebrated Archer’s second birthday with us, and she would sit and watch the ocean at Mum and Dad’s for hours.
I wish now that we had more time with her, as the times we did have passed quickly. She was a strong and resilient woman, far more so than I realised when I was younger. She will be missed, because she was loved.
By Rhiannon Kentish8
Our earliest memories of Blinkie are ‘etiquette’. She even gave Steph a book on ‘etiquette’ for one of her birthdays. Palm Beach in the convertible was one of the scariest trips of my life. Blinkie really listened when you spoke. Sorry for putting the whoopee cushion on your seat.
By Catriona Forrest (née Jones)9
Blinkie — sung to My Favourite Things
Raindrops on roses and Rugby and cricket
Going not goin’ and oh, is that another wicket?
Longbeach brand ciggies, plenty for spring
These are a few of my favourite things!
Seeing not hearing those cheeky grandchildren
Grandstands and headstands and Fisherman’s Friends
Silver spoons and manners and plenty of bling —
these are a few of my favourite things!
Readers Digest! Woollen jumpers!
How now, brown cow
We simply remember our favourite Blinks —
and then we don’t feel so bad.