FIRM FRIENDS: Foundation members of the War Widows Guild, Delveen Pears (left) and Myrtle Zahnow, enjoy the 40th anniversary lunch.
FIRM FRIENDS: Foundation members of the War Widows Guild, Delveen Pears (left) and Myrtle Zahnow, enjoy the 40th anniversary lunch. Rob Williams

War widows battle on with friendship and support

THE death of a partner due to war-related injuries is an immeasurably sad event.

Women and children who are left behind often face long, hard battles of their own.

Two foundation members of the War Widows Guild of Australia (Queensland) Ipswich Club experienced significant heartache when their husbands died young.

Their dreadful situation was eased somewhat with financial and social support offered through the club and the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Myrtle Zahnow's husband died in 1962.

He was 47 and had served his country in New Guinea.

"I had four children when he passed away - the eldest was 11 years and the youngest 11 months," Myrtle said.

"I was three months pregnant."

Delveen Pears was also caring for young children when her husband died.

"He was in the navy and died in 1972. He was 49," she said.

"I had two children, 12 and 15.

"War Widows do help with the schooling.

"My two daughters went to university and the Veterans' Affairs helped with expenses."

War widows invariably nominate "friendship" as the main benefit from the club.

Get-togethers include bus trips, bring and buy events, and monthly meetings.

Ipswich club president Beryl Schy has been in the top job for 28 years.

Her husband was in the 9th Division of the Army, one of the famed Rats of Tobruk.

He came home with shrapnel wounds in the side of his chest, near his heart.

As well as helping its own members, the War Widows Guild also thinks of others.

The University of Queensland Ipswich campus has good reason to be thankful for the local club.

"We were the first organisation to offer a bursary when the campus opened," Beryl said.


Members celebrate 40 years of support

THE War Widows Guild of Australia was founded in 1945 by Jessie Mary Vasey, widow of Major General George Vasey who was killed in a plane crash while returning to New Guinea in the Second World War.

He and Jessie had discussed the need for something to be done to support women who had been tragically widowed due to their husband's war service.

With her natural ability as a leader, her charm and intellect, she encouraged women to start a craft guild where weaving and other handicrafts were taught to members so that they could augment their meagre pensions.

This was the beginning of a powerful lobby group which today is consulted by governments on all matters concerning war widows.

The guild provided companionship, counselling, child-minding and, above all, an environment of mutual support where members could relax and feel secure.

Today there are more than 100,000 war widows nationally.

The Queensland branch was formed in 1947 and subsequently sub-branches began statewide.

The Ipswich club began in 1974 and 40th birthday celebrations were held at the RSL Services Club, North Ipswich, on September 4.

Thirty-four members and their guests attended the special celebration.

There are estimated to be 16,000 war widows in Queensland.

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