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Monday, 30 May 2005
Page: 140

Mr NEVILLE (10:44 PM) —On 9 April this year the Queensland Nationals lost one of our most beloved members and a true stalwart of the party, Mrs Jean Cheshire. Jean was a much loved figure of the Bundaberg district. She was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was a hardworking cane farmer’s wife, an active member of the community and—I speak from personal knowledge here—a superlative cook who made the best sponge cake in the district. Her cream sponges were to die for. Although born and married in Rockhampton, she spent the rest of her life in the Bundaberg region and gave much to the local community. Along with her husband, George, who was an Air Force corporal at the time of their marriage, she moved to Bundaberg, and at the end of World War II the couple purchased a cane farm in the small community of Tegege.

The life of a cane farmer’s wife was not easy, but Jean made the most of it and it was there on the farm that she and George raised their children, Kevin, Noel, Eric, Clem and Joy. In 1965, after 22 years of hardworking but happy married life on the farm, George passed away, leaving Jean and her adult children to run the farm with some help from the Tegege locals. Jean’s hospitality was legendary, and while she might not have been able to do a full day’s work in the paddock she made sure that those who did were well provided for. It was nothing for her to fire up the old wood stove and set to cooking a huge lunch for whoever was on the property that day—sometimes up to 20 people.

In 1970 Jean made a move to Bundaberg and into a whole new style of life. Again, Jean immersed herself in the local community, lending a hand wherever it was needed. Her interests covered a wide spectrum: sport, politics, education and charity work. She became a member and later, life member, of the Bundaberg Tennis Club. She joined the National Party. She was a member of the Uniting Church, the Mater Hospital Ladies Auxiliary, Meals on Wheels, the RSL Ladies Auxiliary and both the Avondale and Kepnock high school P&C associations.

As previously mentioned, Jean’s superior skills in the kitchen were evidenced by the fact that she was also made a life member of the Bundaberg Show Society as a result of her unstoppable attempts at winning every category in the cooking section. It was not long before Jean was made chief steward of the cooking section, a responsibility that she enjoyed for 20 years. In 1988 Jean moved to a local retirement village and spoiled her new friends with her delightful company and her beautiful cooking. In fact, Jean had a book on the go full of orders for people across Bundaberg who wanted her baking. One day she overcame a broken wrist to bake 20 dozen scones for a local senior citizens party.

Jean’s funeral service at Bundaberg’s Barolin Street Uniting Church was more an event of tribute than of grief—a celebration of a full and generous life well lived. I owe a personal debt to Jean, who was a generous National Party supporter of mine. On top of the many branch duties members fulfil, Jean would always bake for party functions. We used to raffle a bottle of Bundy rum at every branch meeting, but even that was put to one side if one of Jean’s cream sponges was on offer.

There was no doubt that Jean’s greatest pride and joy was her family—her five children, 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren—most of whom were present to farewell her, as were the ladies of the Mater auxiliary—an ecumenical tribute to her generosity of spirit. Perhaps her life is best described as it was during her eulogy: Jean Cheshire lived life strong; no matter what life dealt her, no matter how much things hurt, she made the best of it for her family. Vale, Jean.