FAMILY FIRST: Thelma May Ferry lived to the ripe old age of 104 years.
FAMILY FIRST: Thelma May Ferry lived to the ripe old age of 104 years. Contributed.

Farewell to Rockhampton's oldest person, 104 year old Thelma

THIS is a short version of the life of Thelma May Ferry (Clapton), because to tell all would probably take until the middle of next week.

Born April 15, 1913, in Mt Morgan to Florence and William Clapton.

The eldest of four children, she was educated at Mt Morgan, Central Girls, Allentown and The Hall state schools.

She was proud of being top of her class and also studied music to perform in plays and musicals, and rose shows at St Andrew's fetes.

Thelma came from a musical family. Her father played drums in orchestras and brass bands, her brothers played drums and, one of them, Val, also played violin.

Even her father's father played guitar when he was owner of the Aramac Hotel in the 1800s.

Now that musical tradition continues through the generations.

While in her teens, Thelma learned to play the piano and studied for her letters in music, receiving certificates from the Trinity College of Music London, The Royal Academy of Music and The Royal College of Music.

Her dream was to become a music teacher but, unfortunately, family finances in those years prevented this.

She performed in a group with her brothers Val and Cecil around the then Rockhampton district.

She loved English at school and received praise for her compositions from the inspector of schools.

Thelma did well with figures (maths) and, even in her declining years, you couldn't diddle her for a dollar, she knew what was right.

Thelma didn't go to work in a store or factory, she became full-time carer for both her parents as the brothers got married and moved away from home.

On December 28, 1948, Thelma married Arthur Ferry in the Archer St Methodist church.

They honeymooned in Sydney and the following year on November 28, 1949, they had a son, Gordon.

In May 1964, Arthur was tragically killed in an accident on his way to work and she never fully recovered from the loss.

But life had to go on and, with the help of family and friends, her resilience to keep positive shone through.

In 1969, Gordon married Ronda Nunn and a few years later they had Kirsten Louise. The year after, Dale Andrew was born and this gave new meaning to Thelma.

She had more family to care for, and then later when they married and had children, great-grandchildren to love and cherish.

She always wanted to travel overseas, but didn't like flying or going by boat - train or car would have been ideal, she once said.

She did however manage to go away with her aunt by train and visit relatives from Cairns to Perth.

Her mother was one of 11 children, and some of them had four to eight children (her cousins), so there was plenty of accommodation when on their trips.

Gordon and Ronda decided that, when Thelma turned 90, it was time to get as many of her relatives as possible to a surprise party and then the parties continued each year but, sadly, each year the numbers dwindled.

Thelma had moved into St Matthew's Estate Park Avenue in the 80s and then, when she had a fall in 2009 in her flat where she looked after herself, she decided it was time to go to a home with care.

Moving into McAuley Place, she became renowned for her love of a good chat, her egg and potato meals, toast, water and soda water and, of course, her continued sorting of much-loved photos.

If the toast wasn't right or she didn't like something that was served, she would tell them all, "I'm not eating that, take it back".

She had nothing but praise and love for the staff at McAuley Place for the way they treated and looked after her. She would always say, "Gee they're good to me".

The stories she told family and the staff, of Rockhampton and Mt Morgan, left people wondering how she could remember so much.

Thelma was one of those special people who would either write down what she thought important or cut something out of the local paper.

The endless cuttings and notes will take another lifetime to go through.

She would say, "When I was young, I would listen to stories concerning my family and what my aunts and uncles would say about all the relatives, but unfortunately a lot of family members weren't interested enough."

She would have been a great historian.

At 103, Thelma had another fall, this time breaking her femur in three places.

We thought we had lost her then but, after six weeks in hospital, she was up walking, with assistance, and back at McAuley Place and, of course, back to the stories, egg and mashed potato, toast and soda water.

It was only a couple of weeks before her passing that a decline in her health was becoming obvious, but up until then she was her cheerful self, fooling with the staff, enjoying the company of an endless flow of visitors, and always looking forward to seeing her family, grandchildren and great-grandchildren - and anyone who put their head through the door for a chat.

Those who knew her will have their own special memories to cherish.

Thelma was one of a kind and I suppose that - at 104 years, seven months and 15 days - she deserves a well-earned rest.

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