Eulogy to Jean delivered by her grandson Adam Russell
A Life Well Lived
The Eulogy of Jean Spry
Jean Spry was born on the 4th March in 1911. She was the second born, her twin sister Isobelle (Toss) is older by fifteen minutes.
Jean was born to Alice and Stanly Collis (Col), a young couple who moved away from their family in Victoria to Sydney to start a new life.
There were six children, Isobelle, Jean, Valmae, Jack, Edward (Ted) and Dorothy. Val was fourteen months younger than the twins and Jack was thirteen months younger again. There was six years between the twins and Ted and fourteen years between them and Dot.
At five years of age Jean contracted polio, which was a life altering event. The disease left her left leg shorter and less developed. This was the source of her limp which in a way was also her trademark.
It was tough for her family as well. They moved to Annandale to be closer to the Children's Hospital but every morning before work, Stanley would walk to the ocean to get a bucket of saltwater because it was believed that bathing the leg in saltwater was curative.
One memory stood out from this time for Jean. It is the image in the children's Hospital of one little girl also with polio being wheeled into the hospital, so afflicted that her parents had attached her to a door and layed her out on it. The girl was obviously in intense pain. However, the five year old Jean did not see the pain in the eyes of the other girl, only that she had blonde hair, blue eyes, was dressed in blue and little curls like Shirley Temple. This was her personification of beauty and she dressed her children in this manner. It was said of her that her girls always looked "like dolls in a bandbox" and their look stemmed from that moment.
The young Jean recovered, a little weaker physically but much stronger mentally than before. She strived to be faster, stronger and better at anything she tried her hand at than anyone else. She struggled against the barriers of prejudice, e.g. her Uncle Charlie told her that she would never marry because of her leg. I think most people here know that if you told Jean she couldn't do something, she would strive all the harder.
She became very good at tennis, practicising four days a week to the point where she won the B+ grade competition in her area and moved to an A-. She was always proud of that achievement and with polio, it is quite an achievemment.
Her memories of those years were very fond, often it involved the inseperable gang of four, her, Toss, Val and Jack. She also made lifelong friends in Kath and Eileen, who she saw frequently until their passing a few years ago.
She enjoyed her young adult years. It was Jean who was the flirty one with the twinkle in her eye. This is probably best summed up by the fact that Isobel was given the key to the front door but it was Jean who was given the key to the back door.
About this time Jean was proposed to by a young gentleman by the name of Bobby Green. From all accounts, he was a bit of a looker, a great dancer and someone who could sing for an audience. She said no; her heart was to belong to another, a quiet man, not a good singer but with other qualities she felt were far more important. His name was Francis Owen.
Frank worked at Austral Brone in a foundry. When Jean looked over the factory and saw the hellish conditions he worked in, she concluded that he must have loved her very much to go through that.
Frank became her husband in 1939. Nine months later their first daughter Margarette was born. At this time the war intervened. Luckily Frank worked in a vital war industry making ammunition and was saved from the brutality of that conflict. In 1945 with the victory bells barely quiet, Jean was a mother again, this time to her second daughter, Frances.
In the West Chapel of Woronora Crematorium where the service was held
The people in attendance
About to leave for the graveside
Jean had found her place. Her family was her world. She raised two children, bought a house and even had a small win in the lottery!
Unfortunately in 1962, Frank was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. Jean nursed her ailing husband for five years 'till his passing in 1967.
Soon afterward her mother Alice became ill and Jean then nursed her until she died six months after Frank.
One of the things her mother had suggested was that Jean join the Hurstville Diggers Bowling Club to meet new people. She did and began a long relationship with the club.
Her interest in photography was noted and she was soon designated the official photographer for the Hurstville Diggers Bowling Club. Another club member with an interest in photography was Sergeant Spry, an engineer with the Australian Army. William James Spry (Jim) began to get to know Jean and after a whirlwind romance they were married in 1970.
Jean and Jim travelled a lot in this period but her favourite destination was undoubtedly New Zealand. Jim had no children of his own and relished the chance to be included in a family. He was a fantastic grandfather!
Sadly Jim was diagnosed with Lung Cancer in 1980. Once again Jean nursed an ailing husband. Jim passed away in 1983.
Jean continued to bowl and was joined at her home by her daughter Frances and me.
At this time, Jean decided she needed to expand her mind and went to art class with her granddaughter Kathleen. She painted for five years at Oatley Park under a painting teacher.
Many people here have one of her paintings on your wall. Jean decided she needed a box for all her brushes and paints, so instead of simply buying one, she learnt carpentry and made one (actually a few more than one). Jean always kept herself busy with photography, painting, carpentry, bowls and other interests. During this time she also spent much time [with] her family, Toss, Val and Dot, Ted and Jack having passed earlier.
Also during this time she made many friends at the bowling club; Shirley and Alf, Bertie, Norma, Hazel and of course Ken. Ken has been a good friend of hers and the family for a very long time.
In 1998 she was diagnosed with a secondary skin cancer which meant she was not expected [to] live very long afterwards. Her reaction was typical of Jean; to fight it. That cancer was never heard of again.
While she has gone from this place, we know that she will indeed live on in us. We who are left behind, mourn the fact that one remarkable person has left us. I take comfort from the fact that she is herself again and that we will see her again soon.
Updated : 25 Jul 2015