Marjorie Doreen Cooper – Eulogy


Marjorie Doreen Cooper1

17 April 1897 – 26 December 1995

This eulogy was delivered by David Cooper2, her Grandson on 29 December 1995 at St Clements Anglican Church, Mosman NSW

Marjorie Doreen Cooper


I have been asked by my Aunt Janet, my Uncle Truxton and my Father Bruce to speak on their behalf today in relation to their mother Marjorie. I thank them for that honour.  Of course, I speak on their behalf, but I trust with their concurrence, I’m sure they will not mind if I say they also speak on behalf of all other members of the Marjorie Cooper family.

However, for me she was not “Marjorie Cooper”, she was my grandmother known to me as “Nan”. To me she has been and always will be Nan and I asked for your indulgence if I continue to call her by that name.

I speak today with some limitations: Firstly, I speak from the perspective of a grandchild of Nan — as a consequence, I can only speak with the knowledge of about the last 35 (or so) years of Nan’s 98 years … from the time of my first recollections of Nan when I would walk up to the top of the street in which I had lived to visit her regularly at her house in Spofforth Street Cremorne. To the extent that there is another 63 years of Nan’s life of which I am not directly aware I’ll have to leave that for others to discuss and reminisce on another time.  Secondly, I speak from my perspective of a grandchild of the Bruce Cooper family again, to the extent that there are three other families from Nan, through her daughter Janet and her two other sons Truxton and Philip, there is a significant risk that I will only be telling you, on a strict arithmetic analysis, one quarter of the story.

With these limitations, my fear today is that I will not do Nan justice in this farewell to her and in the celebration of her not inconsiderable life.

One initial difficulty for me was where to start. However, that difficulty did not linger too long because I because when I think of Nan, and when I think of the Cooper family, the word “matriarch” immediately springs to mind.

As you all know, “matriarch” is defined to mean a woman holding a position of leadership in a family. As far as I can tell, Nan has occupied that position from the time she assumed control of the Cooper family, many, many years ago and, as we all know, was unchallenged in that position up until the very end.

But Nan’s “leadership” extended beyond one of authority and control, although I note in passing that she sometimes had to resort to that to ensure she got her way when there looked like there might be some opposition to one of her suggestions. Nan’s “leadership” extended in many tangible and varied forms:

  • Initially, her determination to ensure that each of her children had the best education to prepare them for what life had to offer;
  • her astute business acumen to ensure that her family was well provided for during some very difficult economic and uncertain times semicolon;
  • her love and support for each of her children, and also her grandchildren and her great—grandchildren and their spouses;
  • her encouragement to her children in whatever each of them wish to do — and this includes allowing my father, Bruce, at the age of 16, to join the Merchant Navy at the time of War — an extremely difficult decision for a mother at any age, but at age 16, a most difficult decision;
  • her forgiveness off her children’s misdemeanours. In the case of my father, I am reliably informed by my (adopted) Aunt Peg’s Story that these misdemeanours were numerous and varied, including paddling a canoe from Bradleys Head across a busy, and dare I say shark infested, Sydney Harbour to Circular Quay and back. Indeed if I was to account all of the misdemeanours perpetuated by my father during his youth, and with which Nan had to deal, we could easily run out of time this morning;
  • her care and concern to ensure that a young Canadian war bride, a foreigner indeed, namely my mother Louisa, was warmly welcomed into the family;
  • her care and a nursing attention to both my older brother Michael during his significant and prolonged childhood illness and to my mother Louisa when she also fell ill for several prolonged periods;
  • her wise counsel to each of her children, and her grandchildren and her great—grandchildren.

During the time I knew Nan, she led by example and reminded all of us off some of the more important things in life — for example, and in no particular order, manners, courtesy to others, determination, manners, using your initiative, integrity, manners, have I said manners, maintaining a sense of humour, self—discipline, strength of character, having the courage of your convictions and finally, and most importantly , to strive for excellence.

Further in her position as matriarch, she was the cohesive force, the “glue”, which held this family together.

Her family, understandably, was of paramount importance to her and one way this is clearly demonstrated is the way she has used all her creative and logistical schools over the last 6 or so years to ensure there was a family gathering each year did celebrate her birthday . This was not done just celebrate her birthday, but Nan saw it as an important way of maintaining, in this fragmented society, the cohesive benefits of family bonds and the family network.

Each of these birthdays involved months of planning and numerous telephone calls to ensure the maximum number of family members could attend.

But, as testament to Nan, and those aforementioned skills, not only were each of those birthdays extremely well attended, with many family members covering long distances to get there, they were great get—togethers for all of us and gave us a chance to catch up with each other’s happenings over, typically, the previous frenetic 12 months.

As I have said, I have only been able to give a very limited perspective on Nan’s life. However for the record, I feel I must note the following important points:

  • Marjorie Doreen Wilshire was born on the 17 April 1897;
  • Nan produced in raised 4 talented and creative children;
  • Nan indirectly produced and raised 13 equally talented and creative grand children;
  • Nan has “produced and raised”, somewhat more indirectly this time, but nonetheless has been very much involved in, in Nan’s imitable way, 29 equally talented and creative great grandchildren — well at last count it was 29 great grandchildren — there is plenty of time for this to increase over time! and;
  • Nan survived 2 World Wars and 2 World depressions – no mean feat.

I have no doubt there is considerably more that others can say about Nan and her life and her achievements. I have only been able to tell a very small part of the story today – indeed, I have only scratched the surface of what has been, as I understand it, a very rewarding, productive and fulfilling life.

Regrettably, due to my absence from Sydney yesterday and a time constraints, I have been unable to speak with each of Janet, Truxton and Bruce to get a more complete picture of Nan for today. However, I trust my “snapshot” of Nan’s life has been able to do her justice.

Whilst Nan was physically restricted in the latter part her life, thankfully she was keen and alert to the very end. Mentally, she had all her faculties firing on all 8 cylinders. To coin a phrase appropriate to Nan, as a card playing guru, “she didn’t miss a trick”. She was the hub of each Cooper family’s activities and endeavours — she knew what everyone was doing and was of course eagerly interested and/or concerned about the outcome of those activities and endeavours.

She also maintained her wonderful sense of humour to the end. I always gleaned something of something from each time I visited Nan — some history of Mosman, some family history, some words of advice, a laugh, a lesson in surviving in this life. Precious commodities in the these times.

I consider myself fortunate to have been with Nan last Saturday. Whilst she was obviously in much pain at that time, she was as chirpy as ever and, as always, keen to hear all my news. On Saturday, she said to me, and her exact words were, “I have a lovely family”. Added to this observation, is another observation she had mentioned to me on various other visits, that being, that she had had a productive and fulfilling life there was nothing more she wished to do.

Whilst anyone’s physical passing away always brings enormous grief to those that survive, I believe we can all derive great comfort from knowing that Nan, in her own mind, believe that her time had come and that she physically left us at peace with herself and content in the knowledge of achieving an admiral, and most important, goal in this life, of “having a lovely family”.

Nan’s passing leaves each of us with a avoid in our lives. This is inevitable when the “cornerstone” of a structure is physically removed. However, Nan’s physical absence should not mean she has left us. As is often said on these sad occasions, Nan will never leave us as long as we remember her. For me, I will always remember her — for the qualities mentioned above, for her indomitable spirit and for her grandmotherly care and love. In my view, she has instilled in each of us those important things in life would matter. Thank you Nan on behalf of all of us.

In view of my absence from Sydney yesterday, I asked my brother Andrew to speak with our father and to write down a few notes to assist me today. I would like to read those notes, for whilst they cover some of the matters mentioned above , they also cover other important parts of Nan’s life:

“We have gathered together today:

To celebrate the life of Marjorie Doreen Wilshire Cooper – a 6th generation Australian.

To celebrate the life of a determined and resolute mother who, against all odds, raised and educated at the best schools in Sydney, 4 children doing the most difficult times Australia has seen.

To celebrate the life of a devoted grandmother who an active and enthusiastic interest in all her 13 grandchildrens’ exploits and endeavours.

To celebrate the life of a very proud great grandmother and matriarch who, despite failing physical abilities, remained keenly astute pursuing her progeny’s progress

But we also celebrate the life of a “pioneer” many ways:

  • individually as a lady in 20th century progressing her own independence, in both her education and her assistance in the War effort. in a society where this was not the norm;
  • as a new wife and mother at Armidale in what must have been most inhospitable conditions, especially in relation to her luxurious childhood surroundings at Mosman;
  • as a parent facing the challenge of single handily raising 4 children when there was no government assistance or social welfare as we know it today.

And finally, we celebrate the life of a true Australian of indomitable spirit, whose passion for this country and development was immense, which, together with her intense interest both in the political well—being and the sporting successes of this Nation, kept her mentally astute for many years past the average.

* * *

As I have indicated above, Nan said to me that she had done all the she wanted in life. I have no doubt that this is the case. However, I would add one rider looking around today and her family and the quality of the members of that family — by her example and her significant achievements, Nan has done considerably more, and each of us is the better for it.

Thank you again Janet, Truxton and Dad for allowing me to speak today.

  1. [E.6.13a.2b]
  2. [E.6.13a.2b.2c.3d]

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