Eulogy for my mother, Ronda

Ronda Anne Chisholm, May 26, 1940 to October 8, 2012.

My mother’s memorial service was held at St Swithun’s Anglican Church, Pymble on Wednesday October 17th, 2012 following a private cremation on October 13th.

Here’s the eulogy I gave at the memorial service:

Ronda Anne Chisholm Eulogy, by her daughter, Caroline Jumpertz

Our dear Ronda passed away in her sleep, unexpectedly, on Monday of last week. It came as a shock to us all, but it was a blessing for her, as she was in the grip of an insidious illness.

She has been spared much suffering, and for this we can all be grateful.

Now we must try to come to terms with the fact that the vibrant, joyful, exuberant Ronda we all knew and loved, is gone.

So let’s remember her as she really was.

Ronda was beautiful, not only in her looks, but in her life.

Born on 26 May 1940, in Tauranga, Ronda was the first of two daughters to Gwen and Philip Pearce. She and younger sister Brenda spent their early years in Samoa, where their father was the secretary to the treasury on behalf of the NZ government, during World War II. After the family’s return to New Zealand, Ronda attended to school in Mount Maunganui and Rotorua and then high school in Opotiki, where she made lifelong friends with Neil Erickson, Peter Carter and Lois Knight, Marianne Bell and others. Some of these are here today.

She was accredited her University Entrance and at 17, she studied to become a nurse at Waikato Hospital, Hamilton. Four years later, at 21, she became the youngest ever Ward Sister in charge of the male orthopaedic ward, the achievement of which she was justifiably proud. Through her nursing, she met her wonderful friends Erin Lambie, Jenny Callis, Rae Brooker, Diana Holt, Ruth Berry, Libby Smail, Laura Summerville and the late Merle O’Toole.

From Waikato Hospital, she followed a fellow nurse, Tiri Munro, to Auckland, and there she boarded with with Robin Hardley and her young family. She became an air hostess for Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL) which later became Air New Zealand. By this time, she already had a pilot’s licence, and could fly a light aircraft. During a 1964 vacation, she drove across the USA by herself. She also once had a date with John Steinbeck, who took her to the premiere of the film Dr Zhivago.

In her role as an air hostess, she represented New Zealand’s national carrier as Miss Air New Zealand, which is how she met my father, Sam.

They married in New Zealand, and following the wedding they set up home in Melbourne, where I was born. Then came a move to Sydney, where Ronda became an active member of the Ravenswood school community, and Sam and Ronda built their life together. The friendships that we formed at this time with the Southams, the Warburtons, the MacDonalds as well as our Ravenswood friends continue to this day.

During this time, she was an energetic supporter of Sam’s ascendant career at Channel 9.

Her energies were also directed at the Variety Club Children’s Charity, where she worked with her close friend Jill Mapp and became an essential part of the Children’s Heart Awards and the Sunshine Coach Committee, which raised funds and supplied buses to children’s homes so they could do excursions.

Her passions included the ballet, the opera, and supporting and enjoying all the arts, as well as creative cooking, expansive gardening, ambitious sewing, prize-winning golf, adventurous travel and later, walking her beloved dog Hanne at Palm Beach. She adored my husband Danny, and loved being a grandmother to Lewis, and she thrived on entertaining her family and friends on a grand scale.

At her best — and there were decades of her best — she was loving, nurturing, generous and giving, she loved life and she wanted to share her joy with those around her. She was a true friend to anyone lucky enough to make it into her orbit and she was the first to help when any friend or even acquaintance had a difficulty.

Through my childhood, although there were just three of us in our immediate family, Ronda created an expansive home life in which literally everyone we knew was somehow part of our tribe. This brought her the most joy.

However, no life is without its own unique challenges.

Our relationship was not without conflict, but even when we did not see eye-to-eye, I know she loved me with every fibre of her being.

One of her favourite sayings was: “Set your standards, and sail by them”. She had integrity, she was honest, she was strong, determined, principled and hugely empathetic.

All the characteristics I am trying to evolve towards in my life, in one way or another, originate with her.

She taught me love.

She showed me the world.

I am so proud to be her daughter.

In closing, I’d like to borrow from Ernest Hemingway: “Life breaks us all, but in the end we are stronger in the broken places.”

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge those who have travelled here today: from New Zealand: Brenda Crowley, Scott Crowley, Craig Crowley, Neil Ericksen and Marianne Waters.

From around Australia: Ryan, Marie and Georgia and Jake Crowley, Skye Macdonald, and Frank, Jocelyn, Michael and Anne-Marie Jumpertz.

Thank you all for coming today, please join us at Avondale Golf Club for refreshments.

I can only think how happy it would have made Ronda to see you all here.


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