The Courier-Mail

Coach shared her love of swimming

- Supermodels · Australia News · Celebrities · Brisbane · Australia · Sydney · Luton · New York City · Singapore · Sandakan · Iceland · Melbourne · Canberra · Queensland · Auckland · Outram, Singapore · Camberwell · Camberwell · Herberton · Gordonvale · Ken Wood · Australian Institute of Sport · Redcliffe City · Redcliffe

A PAS­SION­ATE ad­vo­cate for swimming be­ing avail­able to peo­ple of all ages and abil­i­ties, Mary Wood never stopped ap­pre­ci­at­ing the fact she made her liv­ing do­ing some­thing she loved. She was also very good at her job. A con­trib­u­tor to the Na­tional Swimming text­book Suc­cess­ful Strokes, Mary was a men­tor coach for three years with the Aus­tralian Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion.

She was still work­ing pool­side only five weeks be­fore her death and was thrilled when she was re­cently made a life mem­ber of Bris­bane Swimming in recog­ni­tion of her de­vo­tion to the sport.

Mary was the only child of Bri­tish im­mi­grants Fred and Verna New and ar­rived while they were en route to Aus­tralia. Ship­ping records show they were headed for Syd­ney but had stopped in Auck­land, leav­ing when Mary was just a few weeks old.

Her par­ents were both for­mi­da­bly de­ter­mined peo­ple, a trait they passed to their daugh­ter.

Verna was a milliner who had trained in Lu­ton, which was fa­mous for its hats at that time, and Fred was an ad­ven­turer who had run off to sea when he was 15 and, by the late 1920s, was liv­ing in New York.

He was also an ac­coun­tant and served in Aus­tralian In­tel­li­gence dur­ing World War II. Be­com­ing aware of the “Bris­bane Line”, an al­leged plan to aban­don north­ern Aus­tralia in the event of a Ja­panese in­va­sion, he moved his fam­ily to Mel­bourne.

With her fa­ther posted over­seas and her mother work­ing as a milliner, young Mary was of­ten left in the care of an old woman and re­mem­bered these as hard times.

Food was scarce. She re­mem­bered re­ceiv­ing letters from her dad and the mil­i­tary cen­sors hav­ing blacked out most of what he wrote.

Mary never for­got the day they re­ceived a black-edged tele­gram say­ing he was miss­ing in ac­tion. He had been cap­tured in Sin­ga­pore and was one of the hand­ful of sur­vivors of the no­to­ri­ous San­dakan Is­land who es­caped be­fore the death marches. He spent much of the war in Changi and the bru­tal Ou­tram Road pris­ons.

This had a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on Mary as he had been a dif­fi­cult man be­fore the war and was worse on his re­turn. Her child­hood was harsh.

She started school in Cam­ber­well in Mel­bourne and soon af­ter her fa­ther’s re­turn, they moved to Cairns where she fin­ished her school­ing at St Mon­ica’s Col­lege, Cairns State High and also a year as a boarder in Her­ber­ton on the Ather­ton Table­land.

She was still very young when she met the dash­ing Char­lie Down. They were mar­ried and had five chil­dren – Rob, Sue, Syd, Craig and Jo – a lonely only child her­self, she now had her own big fam­ily.

Un­for­tu­nately, the mar­riage broke down. As well as there be­ing no sup­port ser­vices for sin­gle mums at that time, there was also a so­cial stigma at­tached to di­vorcees.

It took enor­mous de­ter­mi­na­tion and strength for Mary to leave Char­lie. She moved into a small flat in Gor­don­vale. Times were very tough.

Mary then met the am­bi­tious, hugely tal­ented and charis­matic Ken Wood. Their friend­ship en­dured for the rest of Mary’s life.

Over the next 38 years, Mary made a name for her­self as a pro­fes­sional in her own right.

She com­menced as a learn-toswim teacher, ran sev­eral aquatic cen­tres with Ken and be­came a Level 3 coach, or­gan­is­ing learn-toswim and coach­ing for hun­dreds, prob­a­bly thou­sands, of swim­mers of all dif­fer­ent ages and abil­i­ties.

Mary was the Aus­tralian head coach for the World Deaf Olympics in 1989, Aus­tralian Coach of the Year in 1989, was awarded an Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport Achieve­ment plaque while work­ing at the AIS in Can­berra and was a lec­turer for Austswim and Queens­land Swimming As­so­ci­a­tion cour­ses.

Mary and Ken had a proven abil­ity to take on un­der­per­form­ing swimming clubs and turn them into suc­cess­ful oper­a­tions.

Mary loved cel­e­bra­tions and events, from fam­ily bar­bies to black­tie balls, and trav­elled ex­ten­sively dur­ing her life.

Another of her pas­sions was her singing and per­form­ing gen­er­ally.

She was a found­ing mem­ber of the singing and danc­ing group, Dance-a-Lots, who pro­vided en­ter­tain­ment at many venues, par­tic­u­larly aged care fa­cil­i­ties on the Red­cliffe Penin­sula and all over the Bris­bane area.

Mary was also a long-term mem­ber of the choir, Mul­ti­tude, and was one of the mem­bers who en­sured the choir con­tin­ued when the orig­i­nal con­duc­tor re­signed.

She was also a keen mem­ber of the Greensleev­es Choir.

Mary was en­thu­si­as­ti­cally in­volved in the com­mu­nity and for many years vis­ited el­derly peo­ple in aged care homes who had no fam­ily.

She was a com­mu­nity-minded woman of great courage, de­ter­mi­na­tion and an in­domitable spirit.

Mary is sur­vived by her chil­dren, 10 grand­chil­dren, nine great-grand­chil­dren, and two half-sis­ters.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia