WONDERFUL WOMAN: Bernice Gaze was loved by all who knew her and will be sadly missed.
WONDERFUL WOMAN: Bernice Gaze was loved by all who knew her and will be sadly missed. Contributed

Sister Bernice found her calling as a nurse

SISTER Bernice Gaze (nee Martin) was born in Miles on May 13, 1934.

She was the second child of William James George and Rita Estell Gaze, who were farmers at Ulimaroa.

Her siblings were George, Alice, Bill and Roy.

Back in those days, living at Ulimaroa there was not a lot of facilities - no phone, no power, only black soil roads and no school.

For education, the three eldest children went to Drillham School by train.

After Drillham, she attended her last year at Ulimaroa Provisional School by correspondence.

Along with Alice, Bernice had to do all the normal work on the farm, whether it was milking the cows, sowing and sometimes lumping the bags of grain, driving the tractors during harvest and whatever else was going on.

She tackled any job efficiently and neatly including painting the family home.

At one time the family had about 100 mother lambs to bottle feed.

The girls were experts at feeding the lambs - it was amazing how many they could feed at one time, with bottles held in each hand and between their legs.

Apart from work on the farm, Bernice did domestic work for an aunt and for others in the district.

The two girls wanted their own car, so they decided they would clean 100 acres of the farm and grow a crop of wheat to get the money for a car.

They pitched a tent way down the new block. Not a fancy new one with insect and snake-proof zips, but simply a canvas fly over a top rail.

This progressed well until their father came to the decision to pull down a few dead trees with the tractor, got knocked on the head and was knocked unconscious.

That was the end of the project. They never did get their own vehicle. It might be just as well because at that time Bernice had a reputation of having a heavy foot.

Then she decided she wanted to try city life. She started as a waitress at a cafe in Dalby, staying with good friends of the family, Francis and Clarrie Gibson.

A Presbyterian minister at a youth camp, Graham Skerman, decided she was suitable for better things and encouraged her to apply to become a nurse.

She started training in June of 1955.

Despite the lack of formal education, she was successful and for more than 30 years she worked at the Toowoomba General Hospital.

Most of that time was spend as the Sister in Charge of the ward where she spent her last few days.

Over the years, many, many patients were able to receive their treatment with the utmost care, love and compassion.

In the process, she made lots of good friends.

One of these patients introduced Bernice to their nephew, who later became her husband.

Alan and Bernice were married on June 30, 1962. They were married for 14 years and their later separation was a very traumatic time for both families.

During her marriage she was known as Sister Martin, but she reverted back to her maiden name in 1977 after her divorce.

Bernice didn't cope well with the loss of her youngest brother Roy and resigned her position at the hospital in 1988.

Bernice built herself a home at Highfields, on a spot with a lovely view and she created a very good garden.

Much later she sold her house and moved into a rented unit in the retirement village in Taylor St. The complex eventually changed owners and the renting residents either had to buy their units or move out.

Because she wanted to keep her independence, she moved into a flat to live by herself.

Wherever she has lived she has loved gardening.

When she lived in the Taylor St village, she took care of the main village garden and those of some of the other residents, just because she loved it.

As she had her own car, she was very much in demand by all the others who couldn't drive.

She has always been an organiser and she took charge of a lot of the social activities in the complex.

Growing up Bernice didn't have much opportunity to engage in sport.

She played a bit of tennis, but she was very good at ping pong and she loved fishing.

She hadn't been fishing for years and years when Alice brought her out to camp on the family creek a few years ago, she got a bite and was so excited, her family thought she was going to fall in.

She did love ocean cruises and loved the sea.

She went up the Queensland coast with a group of her fellow nurses and went on a cruise to New Zealand and had a few other cruises.

Bernice loved animals, especially dachshunds. There was never a time in her life when she didn't have one.

Lately, even though her health was not that good and she couldn't get out much, she still kept up with what was on the television and she still had a very strong opinion on the politics of the day.

She loved family history, the family tree and writing letters to people. She kept every paper cutting about friends and family and all correspondence back to the beginning.

Bernice said she had a very simple faith and always liked the prayer:

"When I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

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