Jessie Margaret Noble, formerly Dingle, died in Bundaberg last week, November 29, 2016 to be exact.
She was 97.
Who, you might ask, was Jessie Noble formerly Dingle?
She was my kindergarten teacher so long ago that it is a memory as fresh as yesterday.
While almost every other kid my age in Bundaberg went to Mrs Baird’s kindy underneath her majestic old Queenslander, with its magic jungle and wild animals down the back, I went to Mrs Dingle’s.
Since Jessie’s kindy was in unfashionable Norville Hall at the southern end of Kensington Street where I spent my formative years it was convenient for my parents.
I suspect she was also a close family friend through shared golfing passion and community service club Apex.
She would collect me on her way and deliver me home again when kindy ended.
Mrs Dingle as she then was taught tolerance, love and understanding of those who had been handed a more difficult life card for reasons which are not relevant here, but were real then.
She also taught Highland dancing.
Not for the first time in my miserable life I rebelled at being the only male in an otherwise all female class.
Stupid, stupid small boy I was not realising what opportunities a kilt offered in the circumstances.
I have no idea why she was running a kindergarten or teaching highland dancing but with a daughter and son older than me it may have been she was a single mother who needed an income.
That may have also motivated my parents to support her.
Jessie later trained in optometry and audiology, working in a local practice.
She remained a keen golfer throughout her life.
I would visit her often during my school years.
When I left school to join the army she gave me a parting gift of a pair of RayBan sunglasses, though I was then too unworldly to understand their value.
I continued to catch up with her whenever I was home on leave.
On graduation from military college I introduced my bemused fiancé who wondered why it was necessary.
Because it was Jessie, who absolutely understood why.
Jessie endured the worst experience any parent should ever suffer when her only daughter Jacqueline died far too young of cancer.
She nursed Jacqueline during her illness and showed us again how tolerance, love and understanding can prevail over even the worst human experiences.
I made a point of taking our first child to meet Jessie then, as my Bundaberg connections withered we sort of lost regular touch until the fortieth anniversary of our high school graduating class.
Some of our teachers, many of whom had taught us in both primary and secondary school were there.
Many were of our parents’ generation, some also World War II veterans and we had been to school with their children.
A couple had been major influences in my decision to join the army.
Then there was one, Bill “Doc” Noble, a few years younger than some of his peers, a maths teacher who we recalled as a confirmed bachelor whose life passion was golf, all 19 holes.
“Meet my wife Jessie,” he said.
As some of those teachers tottered about on Zimmer frames listening to conversations through ear trumpets it was my delight as master of ceremonies to outdo everyone and introduce the now Mrs Noble as my kindy teacher.
Actually Jessie, because it was no longer appropriate to address her as I had done all my life as Mrs Dingle.
Although somewhere in those suppressed childhood memories, as a very small boy I seem to recall she was even then Jessie particularly when no one else was watching.
We were old friends.
Life was not kind to her in recent years.
A serious car accident severely limited her mobility as the travails of ageing took their toll.
She moved into care, while regular updates through our class cohort kept us informed on “Doc”, more importantly for me it was more about Jessie.
Now she’s gone and though I don’t shed tears easily, I have for Jessie.
How can you love someone unconditionally for over six decades and not feel a deep sense of loss?
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