BOWRAL community leader, Terry Oakes-Ash, lost his wife, Joy, to cancer last week. His youngest daughter, Fairfax contributor Rachael Oakes-Ash, writes a tribute.
YOU learn a lot about someone after they have gone.
When our mother, Joy Oakes-Ash, died at Bowral Private Hospital on October 15 with our father Terry, her husband of almost 56 years by her side the family home was flooded with cards and notes of condolence.
They all shared one thing.
Note after sympathy note referred to the namesake in her heart, Joy, that played out in a memorable laugh that filled a room and invited those around to join in.
Joy came from humble beginnings, born working class in the Norfolk village of Tacolneston in England, she spent World War II riding bikes to school with her sister Hazel by her side, playing out her next fashion project to sew at home in her head.
She married Terry after meeting him at a village dance. He proposed on a red double decker bus, they honeymooned on a budget in Paris and later welcomed three daughters into their English country lives.
A twelve thousand mile move across the globe to Australia with three children under eight began a life long love affair with travel.
By the time her Parkinsons worn feet took their last shuffle from this world she had stamped over 50 countries into her passport.
For Joy nothing compared to travel, she inhaled the tribal beats of Africa, the polar bear tundras of Canada, the azure waters of the Greek Islands, cruised Alaska, the Mediterranean and the Baltic Seas and thought everyone should visit Disneyland at least once in their lives.
She did three times. She embraced the life of a corporate wife, threw memorable parties that guests spoke about for years, knew how to make a damn good Brandy Alexander and always made new people feel welcome.
American school teachers here on exchange, friends of friends passing through, everyone was invited with her open door policy and her belief that home cooked food was a source of love.
Throughout her 83 years of life on this planet Joy donated her time to the Spastic Society, taught Sunday School at a local church, sponsored children in Africa and started Christmas Carols at Corbett Plaza when she moved to Bowral.
Those same carols that now attract thousands to Bradman Oval every year.
A year ago Joy was diagnosed with inoperable stage IV bladder cancer that had already spread to her lungs. She had one working kidney and a heart condition and had spent a decade living with Parkinsons Disease. Yet not once did we hear her complain about her ailing health.
She approached her last year on this earth with grace and dignity and always a smile.
When she took her last breath the nurses cried and said "she was a lady to the end".
They don't make them like our mother any more. I never heard her swear, even when she had good cause and was fired up.
We always did the swearing for her.
Not surprisingly, according to the cards that came after, she was laughing in her sleep on her final day on earth. Her body is gone but Joy is forever in our hearts.
Joy Oakes-Ash was seen off on October 23 with a service at St Judes in Bowral with a horse and vintage funeral carriage followed by a Celebration of Joy with Brandy Alexanders at The Coach House at The Rift. Donations to Parkinsons Australia.