Her linen press smelled of sunshine

Netta Summerville was just three month's shy of her 100th birthday. Photo: supplied

Netta Summerville was just three month's shy of her 100th birthday. Photo: supplied

Netta Summerville, August 10, 1918 – May 4, 2018

Although Netta, my mother, was just three months short of reaching the impressive age of 100 years old, she was in her 100th year and, until very recently. she was able to lead quite a full life, being relatively independent and, most importantly, in her own home surrounded by the garden she loved. A nursing home for Mum was definitely not an option!

Netta was born Netta Lee at Orange NSW to parents Jessie Phillips and Frederick Lee. When she was born, she had a stepbrother, Gerald, and a sister, Millie, who was several years older than Mum.

Netta was about five years old when her father died unexpectedly, and we have been told she was very devoted to her father and sat by his bedside for some time. Her sister Freda was born after her father’s death.

Netta’s mother never remarried and moved the family to Wellington. Perhaps for schooling, Nana Lee moved the family to Sydney where Netta attended Kambala Girls’ School in Vaucluse as a boarder.

After a time the family moved to Fairlight. Netta worked as a nurse at Tressilian, looking after new mothers and their babies. She loved babies and her practical knowledge was a huge comfort, especially for me when my sons were born.

While at a visit to a solicitors’s office in Sydney with her mother, Netta me a handsome young solicitor called Frank Summerville. He invited her to a tennis party and a romance developed.

World War II broke out and Frank enlisted to serve, so he and Mum were married on October 17, 1941 or 1942. Helen was born in 1943 while Frank was at war, and it was some months before he met his daughter.

After the war the family moved to Queanbeyan where Frank had taken up a position in a law firm. Before 1948, when I was born, Dad was invited by his brother-in-law, Murray Hooke, to become his partner in a law firm based in Wingham and Taree, and so began the respected law firm Murray M. Hooke and Summerville.

The family of four lived with Granny Sunmmerville at the Cedars where Dad had been born and grew up. It was only a short time before 3 Skinner Street, our home, was built and where Mum lived for 70 years, and there ending her days, which was her greatest wish.

In 1952 David was born and so Mum’s family was complete.

Frank became involved in many services in Wingham and Netta supported him in those roles, as well as having varied interests of her own. She was a caring mother and a diligent homemaker, always cooking nutritious meals, sewing our clothes and caring for the garden. I still say that her linen press smells of sunshine. She played golf for a time, and tennis and cards.

Mum was lady Mayoress of Wingham for several terms and was always by Dad’s side in his role as president of Legacy, Rotary, and the RSL. Often they would go out at night and we loved seeing Mum in her finery and smelling of that distinctive perfume, Tabu. Many Wingham debutantes were presented to Mum and Dad.

As a couple, Netta and Frank were very popular and always welcomed newcomers to Wingham, especially the bank managers and their wives. They held square dance parties, and Sundays were generally spent with church, Sunday school, a roast dinner and visiting one of Dad’s brother’s farms in the afternoon. 

Frank died in 1989 and Netta continued to live a full life. She travelled to many places in Australia with Wisely’s coaches and was adamant that we all should see our own country. In 1998 Helen, Mum and I went to British Columbia and then cruised up the inside passage of Alaska to see the glaciers. It was a memorable journey and one which she and Dad had hoped to do before he became ill.

Mum’s life has been one well lived. She was a great believer in a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, she enjoyed films and musicals, and she loved to sing, I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles was one of her favourites. She played solo and mahjong. She was a member of the garden club, patron of the Wingham Hospital Ladies Auxiliary, the Laurel Club, the CWA, and enjoyed the friendship and fellowship of fundraising events such as the lamington drive.

I know that Helen and David would join me in making special mention and thanks to the organisers of the Wingham Brush Day Club, which was a highlight of Netta’s week in recent years.

Also I would like to thank ‘the mahjong girls’ who included Mum, even when her mobility made the logistics a bit more difficult. Special thanks should go to Joan Lawler for her support of Mum and her valued friendship.

I feel certain that Netta is admired, not only for her longevity, and not just by her family, but by many. She had a great spirit and was fiercely independent. She was a good citizen in the Wingham community and we will all miss her very much.