Our dear friend and fellow parishioner of many years, Anne Mazzella, passed away on 12 January. Today I want to share with you the eulogy written by her daughter, Kavisha Paola Mazzella [slightly edited by me].
Anne, little sister of Michael and John, was born into a privileged family in Shwebo, Burma on 23rd December 1933. Her father, G. D. Stewart, was a Buddhist by faith and District Commissioner of the Upper Chindwin area. Her mother, Doreen, was a Catholic and the head of the Girl Guides in Burma. They lived in a big wooden house with servants, dogs and horses – and Mum had a nanny. Mum and her brothers went to Saint Joseph’s in Maymo. Grandfather was a member of the polo team and was often called out to hunt with the Burmese to catch a man-eating tiger. It was the life of a Rudyard Kipling novel: a life we can only imagine.
This life was to be rudely interrupted when the Japanese invaded Rangoon in 1942 and the family fled to India as refugees on what would be fearfully called “The Trek”. They were lucky to make it out alive as many died on the rough impenetrable jungle terrain, starving to death or dying of fatal illness.
Somehow with God’s grace, they made it to India and for the next eight or so years lived in India in the Himalayan Foothills in the hill station town of Derhadun. During this time, unfortunately, Grandfather and Grandma split up.The children all boarded in Darjeeling, being sent to live there for nine months of the year, having three months home on holiday. Mum went to Loreto Convent and her brothers to Northpoint Jesuit College.
Mum was a popular girl, talented in acting, singing and sport. She broke the all-India record for a while in the long jump at 16 feet 6 inches. She even played hockey for the national team. She was also capable of getting the whole assembly at school giggling contagiously when she giggled. She remained friends with the Loreto girls till the end of her life.
When Mum graduated she went back to Burma briefly working as a typist for the Rangoon Electrical Company. Uncle Cecil, an English gentleman who was the head of the company and a friend of Grandma’s, recognised that Anne had a good brain and suggested she should go and study nursing in England.
So off Anne went again on a steamship all the way to England to study midwifery where she met another group of fine young women who were also to become loyal friends. They were Dora Madisetti, my godmother from the French Carribean island of Dominique, and Alexia Kazamia from Greece. Together they had many adventures, travelling to Germany, Spain and France on their nursing holidays .
It was there, one fateful afternoon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury, at Wednesday afternoon social dancing she met our Papa, a handsome young Italian ward-orderly from the island of Ischia. His name was Giovanni Mazzella, and he looked like Perry Como, the famous singer who was very popular at the time. They fell in love and after a courtship of three or so years got married.
Soon afterwards they left the hospital life and went into business together. Thanks to an inheritance of some money from Uncle Cecil and with papa’s advice they bought a business: a small workers’ café called the Penguin Lounge in Surbiton, Surrey. They lived on top of the café and were joined by Papa’s family from Italy. Everyone worked together in the kitchen or front of house. They were also helped by members of Mum’s family from Burma.
The twins, Paola and Giancarlo, were born, followed by another little one Francesco, and soon Papa and Mum were thinking seriously of settling in a warmer country. In the Sixties, the Australian Government were offering opportunities to people in Britain to settle in Australia, paying most of their fares as long as they stayed and gave it a go for two years. After much bureaucratic hassle, they became “10 pound poms” ( except Papa who had to pay full fare of 67 pounds) and set off on a four week cruise down to the Southern Hemisphere on the good ship, The Orion, arriving in Perth in December of 1962.
At first Papa worked as a waiter in Riverside Lodge and Mum was at home looking after us. After many hours of double shifts, Papa had saved enough to buy a business, a café in the ten pin bowling alley, Fairlanes, in Adelaide Terrace, next to the ABC Radio Station. Two more babies arrived – Antonio and Marco. Mum and Papa worked in Fairlanes, balancing that with parenting five growing children. After that Mum and Papa branched out and had another café with Zio Isidoro in The ten pin bowling alley in Mirrabooka, eventually selling both and going into business with Mum’s in-laws, Frank and Franca Danze at Quickstop Deli in Mirrabooka and finally retiring in the nineties. After their retirement they got to enjoy some travel interstate and overseas to visit relatives and friends.
In later years, Mum and Papa rescued a little feral kitten who was called Momo. Momo was very fearful of everyone but was not afraid of Mum and used to sit on the chair next to mum listening to her playing the piano. And when papa wanted to find Momo he would ask mum to play and like clockwork Momo would run in and sit next to Mum.
There are so many words to describe Mum and I won’t be able to tell them all but will try to do my best to open a small window to her qualities.
- WORKED HARD
Mum wasn’t one to shirk. She threw herself in with gusto. But no matter what she had to do and how hard it was, she would counter it with the words “Oh well, just b$#*y get on with it!”
2. EARTHY SENSE OF HUMOUR
While she was stoic she equally had a naughty sense of humour and liked the odd dirty joke. Her favourite TV shows were things like Benny Hill Show, Two Ronnies and Little Britain.
Having been a refugee and knowing what it was like to lose everything, Mum was very good with people, always making sure they felt welcome and at home. In fact she even brought people home. One day we were amazed to come home and find a tall dark handsome elderly gentleman all dressed in a white linen suit and a pith helmet! His name was Monsieur Lavontue and he was a french Mauritian Avon lady travelling salesman. She had met him on the bus home and started to talk to him, enquiring about his pith helmet. She thought he would be a good person for Grandma to have as a friend as they could converse in French. In the seventies when the Vietnamese refugees were fleeing to Australia, under the guidance of Archbishop Hickey, Mum and Papa sponsored two families as part of the host family scheme, helping them settle down and adapt to their new homes. Mum and Papa became godparents to Diep who was born in the Malaysian refugee Camp and was only six months old when she arrived.
I think Mum was born for singing and was excellent at doing harmonies. Uncle John tells a charming story that describes that when the family were escaping through the jungle to India, Grandma and Mrs Gombes were in the Bullock Cart and the boys were on their ponies whilst Anne was being carried in a sedan chair. She kept them all entertained by singing nursery rhymes and by the time they got to the Nagaland Refugee Camp, the bearers all knew the tunes and were singing along by heart. They had been taught well by their tiny choir mistress. She studied classical piano at school. Later she played piano by ear and even at the end of her life was playing for the fellow residents at Bethanie Aged Care facility. She built up quite a fan base and had everyone waiting for her after she had been out for the day with Papa.
5. MUM WAS CONSTANTLY EDUCATING HERSELF
Having been a midwife she was very interested in the latest health issues. One day she came home and said, “Right! No more rubbish lemonade and Coco Pops for you. From now on, we are drinking orange juice and having muesli or boiled eggs for breakfast! What a shock that was! But now we can see she was ahead of her time. We had vitamins every morning and some sticky stuff called IRADOL where she would line us up and we’d be fed our daily spoonful! She even made up a little song “Iradol, Irradol, Irradol, A, makes you bright and healthy. Happy all the day!”
- Mum loved READING.
She often had a pile of up to 30 books on her bed! One of her favourite books was “The Robe” by Lloyd C. Douglas which tell the story of what happened to Jesus’s robes after his death. She also had books in Italian as well.
- MUM was deeply SPIRITUAL
Until her illness prevented her from going along, she and Papa were members of the local Rosary Group. At school she was a member of the Sacred Heart Sodality. Mum even studied the Enneagram at the Redemptorist Monastary in North Perth when we lived at Dumbarton Crescent in Menora. [Editor’s note: the enneagram is discouraged as a New Age practice, incompatible with Christianity.] She was interested in people like Bede Griffith, the Christian mystic monk who lived in India. She used to wear a black lace mantilla veil and bow her head praying and contemplating, and I wondered what was going on in there. Also she had great respect for other religions, having been bought up in India where she was surrounded by folk from Hindu and Buddhist faiths. She taught us not to fear them. In later years she was a devout member of the local Yanchep congregation and went to Mass in the tiny Saint James Anglican Church in Yanchep. In ecumenical spirit, the Anglican community shared the space with the Catholics until the Anglicans built their own church in Alkimos. After that time, the Catholics moved to the Yanchep Community Centre.
She loved to throw Bad Taste Parties, getting everyone to dress up in silly costumes. She loved having the Tamil Servite Sisters over to dance Scottish Sword dancing, celebrating her Scottish heritage. We lived in a Jewish neighbourhood having friends such as the Roses and old Mr and Mrs Goldberg. With our Italian Nonna, uncles and aunts close by down the road and various Indian and Burmese friends and relatives visiting and with our Anglo- Burmese Grandmother, Doreen, living in the granny flat at the back, the house was a veritable League of Nations.
- LOVED ANIMALS
She loved birds and kept finches and canaries.
Then there were cats: Timmy, Miccio, Henry and Momo – but particularly she liked dogs: George the bitser, Cho Cho, Mimi, Gigio the pugs, Pepe the silky terrier-chihuahua cross, Bruno, the silky terrier and Ruby the dingo.
Mum loved them all, but I think she had a special connection with Bruno and was often seen sharing a morning coffee (Instant) and condensed milk with Bruno. Mum would drink from the cup and Bruno from the saucer on the patio whilst overlooking the view of the beautiful Indian Ocean.
- MOTHER, AUNT, MOTHER-IN-LAW AND GRANDMA
Mum was a strong mother with strict boundaries. She encouraged us to do our best. She and Papa noted our talents and were very supportive in nurturing them. Mum’s taxi drove Antonio and Marco to rehearsals for the Saint Mary’s Cathedral Choir and school musicals. She could also be fierce and was handy with the wooden spoon to get us under control when she needed to! By the time the grandchildren came along, she had mellowed and they were spoilt! Mum was very supportive also to the partners of her children.
Mum was gracious till the end. Even when she was in pain, she would thank the doctors, nurses and carers. When they tended her, she complimented them and would often say things like, “What lovely eyes you have!” or “What lovely skin you have!”
12. SHOWED GRATITUDE
Later in life, Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Whilst she lost her short term memory, this didn’t stop her from living and giving thanks. I think in a way it made her less worried, as she truly lived in the moment. One day as the sun was setting, I saw her outside gazing in wonder at the sky saying out loud “Thank You, God for such a beautiful sunset.”
- CONCIOUS TO THE END
Mum has always had a strong inner life. In her last days she knew she was dying and said “Thank you, goodbye. Goodbye. Thank you. I’ve been so lucky to have my life. I’ve been so lucky to have had such good friends. Goodbye, good luck to you and my boys. I will miss Gianni”.
Mum and Papa were a team who complemented each other truly and trusted each other. Once I asked Mum what was the most important thing she had learnt from Papa. She said, ”Oh, he taught me about family. He is so dedicated to the family.” Papa also taught Mum a lot of practical things like cooking and even sewing. When I asked Papa what was the most important thing he learnt from Mum he said, “When I met your mother, I was very narrow minded. She opened my mind to the world.” Mum often remarked that although she and Papa had come from east and west, it didn’t matter as it was their faith that kept them together.
Mum left Bethanie on New Year’s Eve just past, to go to Joondalup Private Hospital as the pain was too great for her to bear. In the last nine days of her life, Papa, her children and grandchildren took turns and camped there with her so she would have company and feel safe in the hospital. On the evening before she died, eight white flowers bloomed on her beloved Moonflower Cactus like a bouquet of stars. She passed away quietly the next morning on Friday 12th January, 2018.
Being a genuinely modest soul, Anne would not like us to be publicly praising her but giving credit where credit is due . I hope this eulogy reminds you of your own special memories you all have with Anne and how she touched your life . As Michael Leunig, the Australian Artist says, there are only two feelings, Love and Fear. There were many moments when I think Mum could have succumbed to Fear but Love won in the end.
I think she really appreciated Life because she had nearly died a couple of times, surviving “The Trek”, having the childhood disease of Diphtheria, and nearly drowning.
Thank you, Anne, for being a lover of Life. We, family, friends and neighbours give thanks for your great example of living a life well lived and generously shared with us all. You will live forever in our hearts.
Thankyou …Chesu Thimbadeh… Shukriyaa… Merci…Grazie!
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.