SAD FAREWELL: Supreme Matriarch of the Australian Red Hatters Florence Slattery in a sea of red hats.
SAD FAREWELL: Supreme Matriarch of the Australian Red Hatters Florence Slattery in a sea of red hats. FILE

Florence Slattery: a full 100 years

THE recent passing of Florence Slattery meant saying goodbye to a much-loved local figure.

Mrs Slattery was a familiar face in town, and well known for her work with various organisations and clubs, as well as her vibrant social lifestyle, which continued well past her 100th birthday, a milestone she marked with a fitting couple of weeks of partying.

Hundreds of mourners attended her funeral at St Mary's Church last Friday, and Mrs Slattery, the Supreme Matriarch of the Australian Red Hatters, was honoured with a guard of honour formed by Red Hatters members who came from far and wide to pay their respects.

Anna Poole, one of Mrs Slattery's five children, said the ceremony was beautiful in every way.

"It was amazing to see all the Red Hatters make the trip to Warwick," she said.

"The church was a sea of red and purple. Mum would have loved it.

"The whole family was heavily involved with the service. Everyone played their part and I thought Melissa Reid sang incredibly.

"It was a wonderful and fitting farewell."

 

Florence Slattery was born in Brisbane on June 22, 1916 to Elizabeth and Charles King and was the eldest of two daughters.

Mrs Poole said her mother spoke fondly of her childhood holidays, riding horses at Mt Tamborine.

"She also used to tell us about the pheasants her family owned, that would follow her to school," she said.

"Mum started her musical career as a child and she became a very talented musician, graduating from the Australian Musical Examinations Board, and later received her cap and gown from Trinity College in London."

Mrs Slattery became a piano teacher in Brisbane and also performed live as a soloist and accompanist on ABC radio of an evening.

"She told us she used to get all dressed up, even though no one could see her," Mrs Poole said.

"Mum was also an excellent ballroom dancer and taught at Murray's Studio."

In the late 1930s, Mrs Slattery met Robert Reid, an optometrist, at a dance in Brisbane and they fell in love, marrying in 1940.

Their first child, Pamela, was born in 1941 and in 1942 they moved to Warwick to start a business, Robert Reid Optometrist.

Soon after, their second child, Nannette, was born, followed by Robbie in 1944 and Deanna (Anna) in 1945.

Mrs Poole said her mother became heavily involved in various Warwick organisations after all the children started school.

"She joined the Queensland Country Women's Association and the P&C at West School," she said.

"Mum would head down the street to get the bread rolls for the students' lunches and pile them all into the boot of her car.

"Then she'd go and see Joan Day, whose house backed onto the school.

"Joan would cook the mince for the mince rolls and just hand the pot of steaming food over the back fence to Mum.

"They were different times."

Mrs Slattery was also the first woman president of the Warwick Lions Club and was forever organising school concerts as fundraisers for the various organisations around town.

She also formed the Reid School of Ballet and Mrs Poole said they were involved in many recitals at the town hall.

"One time we were performing The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe," Mrs Poole said.

"Ken Wigfull, the woodworking teacher at Warwick High, made this giant wooden shoe as a prop, and it had a window in it that one child could look through.

"I remember Pam Smith, playing the old woman, was singing Little Things Mean a Lot and a few of the kids backstage all decided to go and look through the window at the audience.

"As they all tried to peer out, the shoe toppled over, causing pandemonium in the hall.

"Parents rushing around to make sure their kids were okay."

Mrs Poole said the next night, the shoe was nailed to the stage.

"Everyone came to the show that night just to see the shoe fall over," she said.

"Poor mum was horrified but could see the funny side later."

Mrs Poole said her mother was also heavily involved in beautifying the St Patrick's Day parade floats.

"She also won so many awards for her floral windows on rodeo weekend," she said.

"She did such a magnificent job.

"Sometimes we kids went to sleep in the back of Dad's shop while she worked away on those windows until two or three in the morning."

In 1959, the family welcomed fifth child Debbie.

"It was a bit of a surprise," Mrs Poole said.

"The rest of would get home from school just as Mum was getting Debbie to sleep and we'd wake her up.

"So we'd pile in the car and circle the block until she got back to sleep."

In 1969, Florence's husband Robert Reid suffered a massive heartache and died, aged 56.

By this time, all four older children had married and left home, and Mrs Slattery, now musical director at Scots College and the Presbyterian Girls College, was left to raise Debbie on her own.

In 1973, Florence married Leo Slattery, a teacher at Marist Brothers Ashgrove, and she and Debbie moved to Brisbane.

Mrs Slattery taught music at various schools in Brisbane before an illness to Leo forced the family to relocate back to Warwick in 1979.

Mrs Slattery's second husband sadly passed away in 1980.

As a couple they had been heavily involved with the Warwick Choral Society and Florence had also been very proud of her time as conductress of the CWA Choir.

"She won a lot of eisteddfods with that choir, right up as far as Cairns."

In 1992, Mrs Slattery suffered more heartache when she lost her son Robbie to cancer aged 52 and her granddaughter Lauren, aged nine months.

Mrs Poole said her mother was a fan of playing cards.

"She loved being a part of the Warwick Bridge Club and was still playing cards and winning up to a month before she passed," she said.

"Mum also was awarded Citizen of the Year in 1997 and the Jackie Howe Award for outstanding service to music and the arts in 1999."

Mrs Poole said one of her mother's proudest achievements was starting the Red Hat Society in Australia.

"An American friend told her about the Red Hatters and she loved the idea and started it up here in Warwick," she said.

"Mum loved that the idea took off and spread all over the country.

"It was all about being kind to oneself and growing old gracefully with fun and frivolity."

Mrs Slattery lived in a unit until a fall at 98 years of age forced the decision to make a move to Akooramak.

Mrs Poole said she was very well looked after.

"She had lunch every day in the dining room with Jess Devine and they'd clink their glasses together and say 'here's looking at you kid', which I thought was fantastic," she said.

"About four hours before Mum died, Jess came into her room and kissed her on the forehead and on the hand. "I told Mum Jess was there, and she opened her eyes and said 'here's looking at you kid'.

"It was a beautiful moment."

Mrs Poole said her mother simply loved life.

"She loved going out," she said.

"Her morning routine was to get up and have a shower and get dressed to go out.

"That was her day.

"I'd head up and pick her up and we'd go to get her hair done or stop at Bryson's for coffee.

"We're all going to miss her terribly."


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