Florence (Flo) Sylvia Foster 13 August 1923 – 16 April 2018
nership and she supported Bert every inch of the way.
Flo has not only left a wonderful legacy of what she and Bert contributed to this community, but also a legacy of love.
“What an amazing lady. Loved by so many, Flo, you will be greatly missed.”
The following eulogy was delivered by John Nicholson, Flo’s nephew.
Today we are celebrating the life and times of our dear friend, aunt and sister, Flo Foster. Flo or Floss as she was known in her earlier days was born in Mulwala at home in “the old place” as their home was referred to, in 1923. This was before the lake was formed and their house was indeed flooded when the lake was raised. Her life was rich and full and her many achievements are well known to most here. She passed away on 16th April just four months short of her 95th birthday. Today we are to hear reflections and tributes to Floss from three people who have been through the various eras of Flo’s life.
Firstly from her sister Heather who at 98 was unable to make it down from Bribie Island in Qld, but in her indomitable manner wrote a tribute to her sister and this will be given to you by her son Duncan on her and his behalf. Then I - her nephew - son of her brother Jack will endeavour to fill you in on some highlights and achievements of Flo’s life. Finally from her great, great niece Jessica, granddaughter of my sister Bev, will come a most beautiful and moving oration which will demonstrate the effect that Flo had on all who knew her, how caring she was and how loving, and her capacity to move people of all generations with love and affection.
Flo was born in humble circumstances. The old place which was situated just down past the end of the Mulwala swimming pool was to be flooded and her father, my grandad, acquired land on Melbourne Street and built the house which Bev now has. It was and is, a beautiful place and must have been quite an amazing step up from “The old Place”.
In her recollections Flo recalled that at school, her favourite subject was business principals, and she believed that this subject, and the help of her sister Heather, carried her through life in her many business pursuits.
After a stay in hospital with appendicitis, Flo expressed an interest in nursing to Matron Lewis who had befriended her, so on leaving school she went to work at the hospital. Apparently her main job was looking after the new babies.
She was later employed by the local dentist - Jim Kelly - and was with him for about 7 years. She always had the fondest of memories of her time there and I believe it was then that she became so keen to practice good dental health.
Around the end of WW2 Flo met Bert Foster and eventually they were married. They were an amazing and loving couple and between them they undertook some almost unheard of enterprises.
Flo always had a great fashion sense and put this to work in running her own dress shop.
They then built and ran the kiosk at the foreshore for a number of years, had trips overseas and because of their great interest in water skiing, spent time in Florida USA which, was considered the home of water skiing. Flo and Bert picked up the idea for a motel in America and set about making it happen.
In the meantime however, they started Yarrawonga’s first self-service grocery shop - the forerunner of Supermarkets. This was a very hard and tiring enterprise but between them and with help from family and friends, they made it work.
Later came the biggest undertaking of all, the fruition of Bert’s dream - Cypress Gardens Motel. This opened in 1959 and was a ground breaker for its time. It was a great holiday resort, a place to stay overnight, for a weekend or whatever time you liked and you could bring your own boat or ski behind their boat. So many of the people who stayed there kept in touch over the years.
Of course such a large business required bookkeeping and accounting skills. This is where her old school subject of business principals came to the fore and Flo, aided and mentored by her big sister Heather, formed and ran the booking and accounts system from scratch and to my knowledge, it worked a treat.
Cypress Gardens was very successful - they devoted all their time and just lived for Cypress Gardens and made it the success that it was. They made many enduring friendships in this period, with lots of the people who stayed there keeping in touch over the years. But of course all good things must come to an end and I suppose the long hours and hard work took its toll, as eventually Flo and Bert retired and lived in the house just over the boat harbour in Foster Court that Bert built.
Flo and Bert bought a unit in Surfers Paradise and spent winters up there and summers in Mulwala, interspersed with cruises and trips overseas - not a bad life.
After suffering a stroke about six years prior to his death, the great partnership ended when Bert passed away in 2002. As Flo stated “I liked to think that I looked after him well” - I know that she did.
Flo then lived at home in Mulwala in the house that Bert built for her, overlooking the boat harbour and what was Cypress Gardens.
In recent years, it became increasingly difficult for her to live at home. She then moved into Woods Point where she lived happily, receiving loving and professional care from all the staff. We thank the staff at Woods Point for their help and assistance to our aunt.
All the achievements of Flo’s life were magnificent, but the most endearing part of her was that she cared so much about everyone, even people she had never met, and was genuinely interested and concerned about their health and welfare. I will leave you with a quote from Flo’s recollections:
My brother used to say to me when I was young, “Oh Pet, you have been blessed” and I could never understand it. He said it several times, and now I realise that I have been blessed and I am a very, lucky person I have all these memories. A lot has happened in my lifetime, I could not have wished for a better or more loving person than Bert. We had a wonderful life together.
Flo, it is we who have been blessed. We could not have wished for a better or more loving Aunt than you.
Jessica Nicholson, great, great niece of Flo, spoke on behalf of nieces and nephews.
Great Great Aunty Flo, wow, where to even start.
I fondly remember visiting her when she lived in Foster court, well how could I forget when a ‘short’ visit was at least an hour. She surely did know how to tell a story, but I am so grateful I got to listen to every single word as her life and her experiences have been such an inspiration.
I was fortunate enough to be living in Mulwala for a couple of months over the summer which provided me with the opportunity to reengage with Aunty Flo after living in Cobar for majority of my upbringing.
Her sense of style and class was evident even in Woods Point. This was clear through her blow-waved hair, red lipstick and slip- pers which matched her array of blouses. She was not only a gorgeous person but displayed her inner beauty on every occasion as well. The following quote is a perfect reflection of Aunty Flo and really epitomizes the lady she was, “elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside”.
She truly was a beautiful and gracious lady which was clear through every word she spoke as she displayed her genuine and pure heart which left a mark on everyone she met.
I would like to take this time to leave everyone with a nice outlook on Aunty Flo’s life, we should all be thinking how lucky we were to have met someone that makes saying goodbye so hard.
The following eulogy by Heather Wemyss, Flo’s sister was delivered by her son Duncan Wemyss.
Tribute to my Sister – Florence – Flo – to me Flos
Just over 100 years ago John and Silvia Nicholson started their family. Jack eldest, 2 and half years later Heather and then another 2 and half years later Florence Sylvia was born.
Needless to say she was beautiful with lovely blond hair and was spoilt by all.
We had wonderful parents, although very poor money wise we were very rich with love for everyone and were taught great value to live by. When young Jack was given jobs like cleaning everyone’s shoes, milking the cow etc, then they passed to me but as Jack often said, jolly young Flos never got to do them. After school years Flos wanted to be a nurse, she started at the Yarrawonga
Hospital and excelled at her work, but Mum said Dad felt it was getting too much for young shoulders. She then worked for Jim Kelly (dentist) she had some wonderful happy years there.
She also went with Jack driving Dad’s diesel truck which was no mean feat.
The Second World War Flos helped raise lots of money and was belle of the ball.
Around this time Bert came into her life. Flos went on to open a frock shop/general store/kiosk with Bert. She and Bert had several trips overseas. At this time Bert could see where a Cypress Gardens in Mulwala could be built.
She again excelled in all that she did. Shirley and Doug, Bert’s children had their part in making Cypress the success that it was. As my sons Rob and Duncan grew older Flos would have them for school holidays giving them jobs to do such as going around picking up cigarette butts etc.
Flos was a second Mum to them as I know all Jack’s family were too.
We had a wonderful Mum that gave us great Christian values to live by.
Mum and Flos had a wonderful loving sister and friend relationship, which later passed on to myself and Flos together.
Thank you Flos for being my loving sister and friend, God now has you in his keeping.
I am sure that Flos would have at this time want me to say a special thankyou to Bev, Donna, Peter and John and their families for the loving care of her especially the endless hours spent with her over the last few years. As Flos would end, love and god bless. The funeral proceeded to Mulwala Cemetery where Flo was buried with her husband Bert who passed away in 2002 aged 96 years.
Mourners were invited to share refreshments at Mulwala Water Ski Club, Bert and Flo Foster’s favourite club which is a legacy of their vision and very generous support that enabled its establishment.
Funeral arrangements were handled by Yarrawonga-Mulwala Funeral Services.