Sybille Kovac’s Eulogy for Hazel

WHEN ASKED BY ROB if I would be prepared to give a eulogy today, I said: but how can I do justice to Hazel? Rob persuaded me to do one by saying there would be three other eulogies — mine will be a very personal account.

Sybille I met Hazel twenty-six years ago when we were involved in Canberra Life Line as volunteers. Shortly after meeting, we embarked on sharing a house in Barton, Canberra, for over two years. We both shared a love of hard work, parties, and ... vegetables. In those days Hazel was not particularly interested in culinary delights and her staple dish was steamed vegetables, which she would happily share with all our visitors — one, two, or even three additional people. And if there were no visitors, she would eat the lot. I always marvelled at the capacity of those vegetables to adapt to the level of need.

Whilst in Belmore Gardens, Barton, we would sometimes require a third tenant, so we would “interview” applicants by holding a morning party on the front porch — with tea, coffee, biscuits, perhaps even wine. The sun would come streaming into that porch and Hazel would get each applicant’s life story — she was genuinely interested in and curious about people, and knew how to turn a necessary event into a party.

When I first met Hazel, she was working with CSIRO as she had a science degree, but she retrained as a lawyer whilst living in Barton. Our partying time was therefore reduced but not cut out. Sometimes we would party with some political lawyers in our street at midnight for a couple of hours, after Parliament had finished. On one occasion we first heard about Whitlam’s visit to China.

We also had various excursions into fitness and would enrol in such things as yoga or jazz ballet. The latter I remember quite vividly, as Hazel was so tall and I so short. Occasionally we would catch a glimpse of our lithesome stretches in the mirror and collapse in a heap laughing, because we looked more like Laurel and Hardy than nymphs. Hazel always had such a streak of fun in her — it made her a delight to be with.

Hazel’s height was no deterrent to her owning the smallest car on the market — a Mini. She had that car we think for close to twenty years.

On the one hand Hazel was very frugal and careful with her money and yet she was very generous. Three years ago when we went to the Gawler Foundation together, she wanted to go by car, but I insisted that we fly — I didn’t think that a woman with bone cancer should be rattled around in a car. When we joined the group of women with breast cancer, Hazel really focussed on the others as they told their stories. She was generous and non-judgemental as always.

Hazel’s frugality meant that she was able to buy land here in Balmain and build her beautiful home, to which she so generously invited her many friends from overseas and within Australia.

Hazel loved people. She delighted in encouraging her friends to become friendly amongs each other so that they could appreciate each others’ unique qualities.

Sybille Sadly, I was not able to see much of Hazel after she moved to Sydney — here of course she met and fell in love with Rob and had her two beautiful children. I do know from our visits how much she delighted in her children and in being a mother. I am sure they gave her the strength to fight the fierce secondary cancer for so long. Also, her sister Pat’s quiet support must have helped Hazel too, as did Rob’s love.

I see Hazel very much as a modern-day Renaissance woman — always so interested in and curious about the world around her. She was a scientist, lawyer, traveller, artist, connoiseur of theatre and music, apart from being a wonderful friend, sister, wife, and mother.

Hazel was not simply tall in stature but tall in spirit. She always had such class — she stood out in a crowd. She will stand out in my memories.

With love and sorrow,
Sybille Kovacs
21 September 1998.