Violet Whiting, 100. A tribute.

Violet Whiting

Violet Whiting came to Epworth Geelong in February 2017 and stayed with us for some weeks.  She died unexpectedly at her nursing home on 24 June 2017. This article is based on my interview with Violet just a few days before, and is a tribute to the wonderful person that she was from those of us who had the privilege to meet her.

Violet was born at Bethesda Hospital in Erin Street, Richmond, on 2 December 1916, which later was to become part of Epworth Richmond Hospital, so we can claim Violet as one of our earliest patients.

We recently re-acquainted ourselves with Violet, when the need for medical care brought her to our newest hospital, Epworth Geelong, where she made a lasting impression on staff for her vibrant personality and how ‘switched on’ she was.

“When I turned 100, I received a letter from the Queen and from all sorts of people; the Governor, the Premier, the Prime Minister, our Federal Member, Sarah Henderson, and our local member Andrew Katos. They all made a big fuss of me.”

“We had a great party, but I think 100 is too old”, said Violet.

We disagreed. At 100 and 6 months (as she keenly pointed out), Violet was full of life. A vibrant, smart, and aware woman, who stayed abreast of local and international news and current affairs, and was deeply involved in the lives of her five great-grandchildren, aged 8 to almost 12, and her seven grandchildren.

“I spent about seven weeks at Epworth Geelong. What a beautiful hospital!”

Violet’s daughter Helen interjects “Mum said the room was just too good for her and it couldn’t possibly be her room.” “That’s right. It was too beautiful for just me.” Violet laughs, but is clearly delighted at the experience. “We are very lucky to have that hospital here in Geelong.”

Violet tells me the story of her brother Bob’s birth, when she was two. “Mum was booked to go into Bethesda/Epworth again for the birth of my brother, but then my father got desperately ill with the Spanish flu, that was going around then. Because it was so contagious and deadly, the doctors thought he was going to die, and they didn’t want him in a hospital. So mum had to have Bob at home on her own, while nursing my dying father and myself; I was only two and a half, and it was the middle of winter. Luckily my father didn’t die.”

“The world has changed so much in my lifetime. I think we are a bit spoiled now.”

“It was a happier time back then. It was more trusting and safe. If a person walked up to you, you would stop and say ‘hello’. Today you wouldn’t do that, and that’s a bit sad.”

“When I was young, my mother’s mother became ‘grandmother’ and when my father asked his mum whether to call her grannie, she said ‘absolutely not, call me just mum’. So I grew up with a grandma and a ‘just mum’. I was rather old when I realised that ‘just mum’ was my grandmother too!”

Helen adds, “When the great-grandchildren started arriving, we didn’t know what we should call mum as my kids already called her Nan. At the time mum was living in Bonsey Road, so she said ‘just call me Bonsey and that’s what all the kids called her.”

“We tried just mum, big mum, fat mum, and I didn’t like any of them, so Bonsey was good”, Violet laughed.

Violet’s secret to a long and happy life was “always having something to look forward to.” And she made sure of it – she travelled the world, bought a new car when it was not needed and splashed out on her hair, nails, and clothes!

Violet was the respected, loved and beautiful family matriarch in every sense of the word, presiding over four generations of her extended family.

They all miss her and our thoughts are with them.