Long-time resident and much-loved Island identity Cherry McFee was farewelled by the Phillip Island community recently at a large funeral at St Philips Anglican Church, Cowes. She was approaching 94.
Despite the lack of modern-day conveniences such as electricity and a town water supply, and being somewhat isolated, her childhood days were full of fun, adventure and a loving, supportive family. Times were tough, however. The Depression was approaching and Stan was still clearing the best land to grow crops.
School meant a daily trip to and from Rhyll in a horse and cart with her siblings. Family outings might be a visit to Cowes, or a picnic at a favourite beach: Cape Woolamai, Smiths Beach, or nearby Pleasant Point.
Schooling at Rhyll took her as far as eighth grade and the Merit Certificate. A few months later, World War II broke out, and Cherry worked with her father and sister Kath on the farm growing carrots for the armed forces and chicory and managing the dairy herd. She continued to study by correspondence, completing the equivalent of Year Eleven.
Soon after the War, Cherry endured the devastating loss of her beloved fiancée, Jimmy Bryce. She never married.
In the late 1940s and early `50s, Cherry worked at Alan Murray’s photo shop in Cowes during the summer months, and travelled widely throughout Australia in the off-season with her life-long friend, Milly Roberts. She then moved to Melbourne, working in the jewellery department of Foy and Gibson, and learning secretarial skills at night classes.
The outbreak of polio in the early 1950s beset her family, as first Kath, then Marge, contracted the disabling virus. Cherry, always one to put the welfare of others before her own, spent many months staying with the families, caring for her sisters and their children. The families were forever indebted to Cherry for her love and dedication over that difficult period.
In 1956, Cherry returned to employment and studies in Melbourne, sharing a rented house in Pascoe Vale with five other young ladies from the country who all got on well. She worked as a waitress, then gained employment with an insurance company, Law Union and Rock, working there for eight years as stenographer and secretary to the claims manager.
In 1966, following the death of her mother, May, Cherry returned to live on the Island to be with her ageing father, Stan. She soon obtained a position in the Phillip Island Shire office, becoming assistant to the shire secretary, first Stan Harris and later Barry Hayes. She continued in that position until her retirement in 1984.
Cherry found time to travel overseas, visiting Fiji, New Zealand and Tasmania. In 1993, she explored all parts of the UK, the highlight being a visit to the Scottish isles of Colonsay and Oronsay, the ancestral home of the Clan Macfie.
Over the past 50 years, Cherry’s contribution to the local community has been enormous, especially her commitments to the Phillip Island and District Historical Society, and St Philips Anglican Church. The list is a long one, and includes:
- Several terms as president and secretary of the Historical Society, assistant secretary and accessions officer. She was an active member until the end.
- Treasurer of St Philips for a number of years, treasurer of the Parish of Bass/Phillip Island for 12 years, secretary/treasurer of the Mothers Union branch.
- Secretary and treasurer of the Phillip Island Cemetery Trust for 15 years.
- Secretary of the Friends of Churchill Island Society and chairperson of its festival committee.
- President of Probus, 1985-6
- International Toastmistress Club treasurer, secretary and president, and regional conference co-ordinator, over a period of years.
- Early member of the Phillip Island Tree Planting Association, and, in later years, active member of the San Remo Garden Club.
Cherry’s services to the community have been publicly acknowledged at various times. She was a life member of the Historical Society and the Cemetery Trust. In 1989, she was named the Shire of Phillip Island Citizen of the Year, and in 2004 received the Flinders Electorate Community Award for her “valuable contribution to the community of Phillip Island”.
Cherry loved her garden, specialising in roses. Her blooms graced many a vase of family, friends and St Philips Church. She was grateful for the weekly help given by her gardener John Cook.
Cheerful, determined and alert till the end, Cherry was supported by her loving family and friends in her final days. She died peacefully on January 26.
She lived a life that enriched the lives of others, and will be sadly missed by the Island community.
John Eddy was a nephew of Cherry McFee.