A Tale of Two Women

Two amazing women have just passed away, within hours of each other. One was well known by millions, and the Australian as well as world press have told her inspiring story as front page news. The other woman was just as inspiring and influential, but to a much smaller circle.

The big name of course was Dame Elisabeth Murdoch who has died peacefully in Victoria aged 103. The Murdoch media empire is of course well known throughout the world, but her son is only a part of her incredible legacy. Plenty of other tributes to her and write-ups about her are already available, so no need for me to do anything new here.

A few lines from the Herald Sun story will do: “The renowned community leader, charity worker, philanthropist and matriarch of Australia’s greatest media family will be mourned by countless thousands of Australians whose lives she has touched. She was the wife of Sir Keith Murdoch and mother of four children, including Rupert Murdoch….

“Dame Elisabeth devoted her life to helping others. She said it was the most important thing in life and the most rewarding. ‘Be optimistic – and always think of other people before yourself,’ she said in an interview to mark her 100th birthday.”

“She was known to have helped at least 100 organisations directly. But she also helped thousands of individuals, either with advice or by using her considerable influence and contacts. Her greatest monuments are the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

“Lady Elisabeth, as she was then, threw herself into the work of the Royal Children’s Hospital after the sudden death of Sir Keith in 1952. Widowed at 43 and left to raise four children, she commuted to Melbourne almost daily from Cruden Farm to head the planning committee to relocate and build a new children’s hospital at Parkville. She was created a Dame the day the Queen opened the hospital.”

Yes she was an extraordinary woman. But much closer to home for me was a very similar lady. Her manner of life could also be distilled into the same sentence: “Be optimistic – and always think of other people before yourself.”

She brought joy, warmth and comfort into the lives of everyone she came in contact with. One did not hear her complain, although she went through the same trials and hardships as so many others have. She was always interested in others, and never brought attention upon herself.

I have known her for about half of my life and lived near her for most of that period. She was unique and someone who will be deeply missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing her. She was my mother-in-law Vivienne Horner who died at age 81.

Christmas this year will certainly be different without her. But the good news is she will be having a ball in her new home. We all miss her heaps already, and look forward to catching up with her again one day.


[501 words]