I’m writing this letter as you left suddenly and there was still so much to be said. Not just by me. Lots of your friends have expressed sadness and regret that they didn’t get a chance to express how they felt.
It’s funny isn’t it? We have such strong feelings for each other but we adopt the attitude of ‘we can express that at another time, when it really counts!’ As in this case, often that time never comes.
So here are the reflections of what ‘having Rose Curtis in our lives’ means to your friends and myself.
Rose, I wonder if you have any idea what an inspiration you were to others? You inspired us all to be more caring and compassionate through your support, generosity and concern for others.
Let’s go back to when we first got to know you. Your dear friend Kathy related her first encounter with you in the first week of OT (Occupational Therapy) at Lincoln.
“She was riding her much loved Cecil Walker bike up Lincoln Square. She was tanned and athletic. A country girl ready for life.” It was not long before you had convinced Kathy to buy a bike and you were ready to teach her how to use the gears and ride properly.
So many people have echoed your characteristics. You were enthusiastic, vibrant, dynamic, highly energized, friendly and had a great sense of humour…….you were ALIVE, and you were PRESENT. Oh, did I mention that you had high energy? Of all your characteristics this is the one that many people could find daunting rather than inspirational.
My first meeting with you was probably around the time you volunteered at Richmond Fellowship on the Going Places pilot. Your smile was the first thing I noticed, quickly followed by the way you accepted people for who they were. It was also apparent that not only did you challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone, but you also had a talent for encouraging others to do the same. Always with friendly persuasion.
Why else would you commit to a 4 women relay to ride a bicycle non-stop from Perth to Melbourne in a week to raise funds for mental health. You were able to combine your energy and drive with a good cause - a cause that you were passionate about.
Rosie, the other thing mentioned in many recollections is that once people met you they rarely forgot you. You had a great capacity to engage with and maintain relationships, which left a lasting impression.
Speaking of making a lasting impression. My mother never forgot Rose Curtis after the time we called in at Morwell on our way to camping in Dargo. Hospitality was second nature to mum so, of course, she offered a cup of tea. Not to be outdone Rose, you raced out to the car and grabbed a cake you had baked. What a convivial gathering, made so much better by the fact that the cake was laced with marijuana. When told of this a number of years later my mother was both shocked and enlivened. She never forgot you Rose…. or that cake!
Rose, I mentioned previously your energy and drive for a good cause. You were a founding member of the Not for Profit mental health organisation Out Doors Inc. It is soon to celebrate 30 years of providing outdoor activities, which has made a difference to the lives of hundreds of people and their families. You can be justifiably proud of this achievement. Turning a good idea into reality takes both skill and courage and your contribution demonstrated both.
Of course it was not all about chasing good causes. You found plenty of time to pursue your other passion, travel. The Out Doors Inc. days were preceded by travel to SE Asia with your family, an around the world trip upon completing OT, visiting Janette in Tel Aviv and Wagon Trailing through North America with young offenders.
Work also played an important part in your life. Linda described you as “An innovative, creative, committed occupational therapist and family therapist.” Your group work with adolescent girls in Child and Adolescent Mental Health enabled them to express their gratitude for their experience in the group.
Wow Rose, we haven’t even got to the paddling yet!
Let’s go there now.
What perfect partners. A long established sporting club meets enthusiastic, vibrant, dynamic, friendly person with unlimited energy.
They were bound to click, and click they did.
Rose your first involvement with FCC (Fairfield Canoe Club) was when the Darebin Double Dippers, made up of Carolyn, Janine, Louise and yourself were training for the Murray River Marathon and needed a club to learn to paddle. After completing the five stages of paddling, falling in, falling in, falling in, falling in and falling in the team was ready and success awaited. ‘Delihah’, a TK2 painted green and purple, was purchased in Dec ’96 in time for the Boxing Day start.
I’m quoting Carolyn Dun now…………’Let’s face it, Rose was the highly competitive power paddler who drove the team to glory that year. Rose was always ready and willing to do multiple legs of the relay during the day, cook risotto on the open fire for dinner and direct team meetings at night, all the while keeping us laughing and motivated in between her massage sessions.
My favourite dippers story was your organization of the trip to the Northern Territory for the Katherine River marathon. It seems that despite all of your research and logistics and attention to detail, some minor details got overlooked…………… white water rapids and crocodiles. It didn’t matter your team still came in 1st and 2nd.
Rose, you had a great sense of humour and you were always very social. Who else would think of going to an Aussie party dressed as a can of Aerogard? It was not long before you introduced the concept of the Cappuccino run to FCC. This entailed a leisurely 5km paddle along the Yarra River, on a Saturday morning, to Studley Park boathouse where a coffee/hot chocolate awaited the hearty souls. You will be kicking yourself Rose, as a Cappuccino run has been organized in your honour this coming Saturday morning. I know you will be there in spirit.
The other thing that I really liked about you was that you were an ideas person and you were prepared to roll up your sleeves to make sure those ideas came to fruition. You were behind the idea of a Christmas party to involve the children of club members, you were instrumental in initiating and organizing the ‘Big Bash’ the FCC awards and end of year night and many people will remember your fundraising efforts for Nick and George’s Olympic bid. Furthermore, Rose when the club called for nominations for Board members you were there with your hand raised, prepared to do your part as a director.
Rose, I am yet to touch on the activity you enjoyed more than anything. TALKING. You were never lost for words and I loved it that people learnt to accommodate your need to talk. Alex James gave me the following strategy he used. “I trained many times in a double canoe and kayak with Rose. We had a rule. Rose could chat in the boat for the first 10 minutes then it was time to train. The cappuccino run was the one exception, she was allowed to chat the whole way to the boat house coffee shop and she always did.”
Of course it was not all fundraisers, parties, attending board meetings and talking. You could paddle as well!
At the first ‘Big Bash’ I attended, I sat on your table and watched in awe as you swept the trophy pool. Best winter series paddler, best women winter series paddler, Under the Yarra Award and the Presidents Award. Then who could forget the World Master Games of 2003 held in Melbourne? You encouraged everyone who was eligible to compete and celebrated the success of all FCC place getters and equally those who completed the course. Then there was the small matter that you won 7 gold medals yourself.
Over the years you have kept exploring both the world around you and the world within. Rafting the Franklin, sea-kayaking in Fiji and meditation in Bali took you to distant places while your garden, the chooks and the dining room table took you and your many friends to places that will be cherished by all.
During the last few years you have struggled with your debilitating illness, however you have impressed many with your determination to make the best of your life by adjusting to the increasing limitations you experienced. You were able to content yourself with the simple things in your life, your garden, chooks, a love of Anzac biscuits, a well-set table and the sound of crystal glasses being raised in friendship.
Rose, you will be so missed by your family and friends. We are grateful for the way you have enriched our lives and we will hold our precious memories always.
19th October 2016
(Ably assisted by contributions from many of Rose’s friends)
Rosie, let me finish this letter with a poem written long before you were born, but seemingly written in memory of you.
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
To laugh often and much
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Rose at the World Masters Games 2002. Photo: Julie Perriam.