10 May 1948 – 14 September 1998
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 07:15:18 +1100

Subject: Re: Hazel

Dear Josh and Zoë,

When I think of Hazel, the first thing I think of is her high, happy voice. I can catch the tone in my mind, better than the voices of most people. I didn’t ever hear her sing - lucky you: you would have - but I imagine that she was a high soprano. Her voice was welcoming. And so was she. I felt comfortable coming to your house and Hazel and Rob were very generous in having me stay on my own a few times when I had conferences in Sydney, and with Harold and Rohan and Anna when we didn’t have relatives in Sydney to stay with. It was like being at home. We felt comfortable at your house because no one made a fuss.

The first time I remember staying during week days was when Hazel was due to have Josh. She was sooo close that I was actually at your house when you were born, Josh. I can’t imagine being at anyone else’s house at a time like that. I remember thinking that I wanted to do something useful because I was adding to the stress, so I tidied up the laundry. Hazel may never have found things in the laundry after that!

Hazel always seemed to wear beige-toned clothes when I saw her. I found a ‘seconds’ shop in Redfern that had a suit I was drawn to and took Hazel to see it, with Harold. It was a change of style for me - much more sophisticated than I’d normally wear - and beige. I should have known what would happen next. Of course, Hazel was enthusiatic about me getting it and taking it to New York where I hoped to go on a scholarship. I did buy it, I did get the scholarship and I did go to New York with the suit, and always think of it as Hazel’s suit.

For a long time after Rob and Hazel established themselves in Vincent Street, the paintings and prints were stacked around the house and not up on the walls. When Hazel was diagnosed with cancer, she thought carefully about what she wanted to do with her life and decided not to go back to work. She decided to do a lot of things to make her life, and your lives, better in other ways than by making money. I was staying at the time she decided to put up the paintings - not the ones she did herself, she hadn’t got that far by then - the ones by other people. We spent a morning, when everyone else was out, choosing the places where they would be best. She did it, really, and I helped line things up. But the house was transformed in a morning. It wasn’t long after that she took up art herself. I think that was the time she also started playing the piano again and it seemed a very conscious decision to do creative things. It was an inspiration to me, to get on with doing the things I’d put off.

We had wonderful spontaneous lunches at your house with Hazel and Rob. Fabulous fish market fish...with Hazel’s high voice and relaxed style.

Another side of Hazel was her strength. I never heard her complain or whinge about having cancer. She seemed to just get on with what she could do, and not focus on being sick. That is a big one to live up to. I doubt if I could have done so well. I was flattered to get a reply to a letter I’d written to her about 18 months before she died, because she said she rarely replied to letters. Mine had been a comparison with how I saw her coping and how hard I was finding a transition I was going through. She just brushed aside her way of doing things as not being very significant; but it was a good way to live. She focussed on the things she COULD do and didn’t dwell on the things she COULDN’T do. That’s a good idea in many situations, not just the big ones.

My dad died when I was older than you and after a while I couldn’t recall him in action - just ‘still’ like in a photo. I couldn’t recall his voice either and started to think that I would lose my memory of him. Someone said to me "but part of him lives on in you". I found that helpful. I still keep my memories of him as if they are photos.

Lots of love to both of you


Harold and Nancy 
93 Wybalena Grove 
Cook ACT 2614

Ph/Fax: 61 2 6251 5084
Mobile (Nancy): 041 608 4141
       (Harold):041 226 5955
Email: wilko@actonline.com.au

Nancy & Harold were old friends of ours.

Nancy was diagnosed with mesothelioma in May 2001, and died at 12 noon on Wednesday, 6th of February, 2002, five days before her 56th birthday. She too was at home, with her family.

Last Updated 7 February 2002