This story is a tribute to the late Elizabeth Annie (“Betty”) Anderson, of Rockhampton. Betty died on 25 February 2020, aged 100 years 6 months.
I met Betty when I was a child. She was a long-standing family friend. My mother Evelyn and Betty had known each other since their late teens. My husband, Tony, met Betty in the 1970s, so he knew her almost as long as I did. Not that Tony and I had a lot to do with Betty in those early years.
However, after Tony and I moved to Rockhampton in the 1980s, and had more contact with Betty, we came to know and appreciate her in a special way. Over the next 30 years or so, Betty became one of our dearest friends.
It mattered not that Tony and I, and my mother Evelyn, relocated to Brisbane in 2003. Betty wrote to us and phoned regularly. She was a great correspondent, and we still have most, if not all, of the letters and cards she sent to Evelyn, Tony and me, between 2003 and 2019. Even when she could no longer write herself, Betty had others write to us on her behalf.
Tony and I had numerous phone conversations with Betty during those years. Betty initiated many of these calls. (I know because Tony and I keep diary records of our phone conversations.) In June 2018, for example, soon after returning home from a prolonged stay in hospital after breaking her hip, Betty phoned us, to find out how we were going. In her rather croaky voice, she began: “Sorry I haven’t been in contact.” Here was a dear 98-year-old, still recovering from major trauma, concerned not for herself, but for her friends! How humbling is that?
Betty’s story: The background
I always wanted to write Betty’s story. Not because Betty had lived a long life, but because of the way Betty lived her life, especially the last phase of her life.
In September 2015, Betty, at 95, had a fall while out shopping. It resulted in a cut blood vessel in her hand and several days in hospital. A month later, Tony and I visited her in Rockhampton. We arranged to have lunch at her home with her and our mutual friends Neville and Margaret Featherstone. Betty was surprisingly well, although it was clear that now she needed to use her wheelie walker. Margaret provided the food for the main course and Betty provided the dessert, her renowned Jelly Slice. Everyone who knew Betty loved her Jelly Slice. Afterwards, I asked Betty for her recipe, which she enclosed in a letter to me a few days later. (You’ll find Betty’s recipe for Jelly Slice at the end of this post.)
Over the next few months, Betty’s health deteriorated. In a letter dated 2 April 2016, she wrote to us:
I felt it time I put pen to paper again to you. Sorry about this [lined] paper, but [I] can see the lines better. Even then [I] run off the lines at times. My eyesight is failing…and my fingers are getting stiff from Osteo. And, as you know, my feet and legs feel at times they don’t belong to me, also pain a lot at times. A real sad story of myself, aren’t I??
This letter prompted me to act. So, in mid-April 2016, I made a special trip to Rockhampton, to spend a couple of days with Betty. I wanted to hear Betty’s life story, and record it, while I had the opportunity. Fortunately, Betty was more than happy to share with me many details of her life, some of which I was aware, and some that came as a complete surprise.
At 96, Betty’s memory was crystal clear. Truly, it astounded me how readily she recalled dates, names and particulars of places and people from her earliest of days. Betty was so grateful she possessed this capability. In a letter to us on 25 July 2015, she put it this way:
Memories are something no one can take from us. But I’m sure it is God’s gift to me I can remember what I do.
The story that follows is a synopsis of Betty’s 100 years. By no means is it Betty’s complete life story. That would require a book or two! Here I’ve focussed on those aspects of Betty’s life that I believe had the greatest impact on her and those around her. It’s based on my own and my husband’s knowledge of Betty’s life, the things Betty shared with me in April 2016, Betty’s correspondence, Betty’s story as compiled by Del Rowan and Kathy Poole , and additional research of my own.
NOTE: A list of references I used in preparing this story is found at the end of the post. References are numbered and noted throughout the text by brackets: [X].
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Betty Maluga: The first 12 years
Elizabeth Annie (“Betty”) Maluga was born at Boonah, a small rural town in south eastern Queensland, on 29 August 1919. Betty was the second child of Mary Annie (nee Suhl) and Victor Maluga. Victor and Mary, who married at Boonah on January 17, 1917, went on to have a total of seven children, four sons and three daughters. 
In 1923, Victor and Mary and their three children at the time (Gladys, Betty and Len) moved from Boonah to a farm between Dululu and Deeford, about 75 kilometres (47 miles) southwest of Rockhampton, in central Queensland. Victor’s sister owned the farm. Victor worked for his sister until he successfully selected a nearby scrub block, which the Maluga family owned until 1957. Here Victor built a bush home, ran a dairy and grew cotton. 
From age 5, Betty attended a small one-teacher school at Deeford, a distance of about 5.5 kilometres (3½ miles) from the family home. Like many country children of that era, Betty walked, or rode a pony, to school. During the day, the ponies the children rode to school stayed in a horse paddock next to the schoolyard.
Betty told me about “Mr Thomasson”, her favourite teacher. Raymond Henry Thomasson, a 21-year-old from Rockhampton, came to Deeford State School in 1930. (The Deeford State School opened in 1913 and closed in 1941. ) Mr Thomasson served as headteacher for three years, from the beginning of 1930 to the end of 1932. [5, 6, 7] This period covered Betty’s final years of schooling. She left school at age 12.
Prior to one of the 6-week summer holidays, Mr Thomasson asked Betty to water the school garden, which included the school’s beautiful rose garden. Betty was only too happy to do so, twice a week for the 6 weeks. When Mr Thomasson returned to school at the end of the holidays, he gave Betty a “thank you” present – a box of three lace-edged handkerchiefs and another box with a cake of soap and a bottle of perfume. “My eyes nearly popped out of my head”, recounted Betty. “I had never seen gifts like these before.”
Betty’s family had no such luxuries. In fact, during the Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s , the Maluga family, like many other families in similar circumstances, struggled to survive. Betty recalled a police officer named Gould riding on horseback from Wowan to check on the family, because he had heard they didn’t have much food. He asked, “How many are there in the family?” Mrs Maluga replied, “Nine.” The police officer gave Mrs Maluga enough food vouchers for the week. He told her that either she or her husband ought to go to Wowan and collect vouchers like these once a week. Victor, too proud to accept help, said, “I’m not going to go and get them.”
Surprisingly, Betty didn’t tell me much about her home life as a child. I can only surmise from subsequent events that Victor and Mary Maluga found it extremely hard to support their growing family during the depression years. Consequently, as soon as Gladys and Betty were old enough, Mr and Mrs Maluga sent them out to work.
In 1931, when Betty was 12, her parents arranged for her to work for a Mr and Mrs Miller, for the grand sum of five shillings per week. At the time, the Millers were managing a property called “Pretty Plains” (the site of the Moura Mine today). To get there, Betty travelled several hours by train from Wowan to Gibihi siding (near Moura), where Mr Miller met her and took her by horseback the rest of the way to the Miller’s home. After the long trip, Betty was tired and teary. Here she was, far from home, at a strange place where she knew no one. She was scared. Would the Millers like her? Would she be able to do the work they required of her?
Harold and Deede Miller
Harold Sidney Miller met his future wife, Deede Redwood, around 1914-1915, when they were both working at “Woolthorpe”, near Theodore. (Theodore is about 200 kilometres south of Rockhampton, in central Queensland’s Dawson Valley.) Harold was the property overseer. Deede, an Englishwoman and trained nurse, was employed by Mr and Mrs William Woolrych, the owners/managers of “Woolthorpe”, as their child’s nanny.
The couple married on 12 August 1916, two years after the beginning of The Great War.  Three weeks later, on 5 September 1916, Harold (28) enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).  In the meantime, Harold’s young bride, Deede, went to live with Harold’s mother at Bondi, New South Wales.
Unfortunately, Harold’s time in the AIF came to an abrupt end after he fell ill en route to Europe. Private Miller, hospitalized at Capetown, South Africa, had an attack of acute rheumatism. Rheumatism had plagued him since childhood (which I presume he didn’t reveal when he enlisted). An army medical board found him unfit for military service and sent him back to Australia. On 10 April 1917 Private Miller was discharged from the AIF. 
Together again, Harold and Deede returned to central Queensland, and the Dawson Valley, this time as managers of “Pretty Plains” (one of several properties owned at the time by brothers Bill and Fred Nott). Here the Millers made their home for the next 20 years.
For many years, the couple tried, without success, to have a family. Deede did eventually conceive and carry to full term, but the child was stillborn. This loss, and their childlessness, caused Harold and Deede, especially Deede, much grief. These were the circumstances that led the Millers to hire 12-year-old Betty Maluga as a home help and companion for Deede.
The Millers: A new family
Young Betty’s fears about the Millers were unfounded. Harold and Deede Miller were kind, sympathetic employers. From the outset, they liked Betty and Betty liked them. In fact, as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, the Millers decided to ask Betty’s parents if they could adopt her. Betty said, “I wanted to be adopted.” But would Betty’s parents agree to a legal adoption?
The two couples, and Betty, arranged to meet in Wowan, at the office of Mr Jack Simpson, of Grant and Simpson Lawyers, to discuss the Miller’s request. Betty came with her bags packed. Both Betty’s father and mother (who had split up by this time), and Betty, agreed to the adoption. “It happened then and there,” Betty recalled. “They changed my surname but not my Christian names.” Afterwards, the Millers, who had travelled to Wowan from “Pretty Plains” by car, took Betty home with them. For good.
Once the Millers adopted Betty, they treated her like a daughter. No longer did Betty have to eat her meals in the kitchen when visitors came. Betty now had full rights as a member of the family. As “Betty Miller”, she was not their servant, but the daughter Harold and Deede so dearly longed for. However, there was one thing Mrs Miller regretted about the adoption: She wished she had changed Betty’s Christian name to “Barbara”. Betty told me, “The Millers always called me Barbara.”
Betty Miller: From teen to young woman (1930s)
During the 5-6 years Betty lived at “Pretty Plains”, she got to know the Anderson and Becker families. They lived on nearby properties. John Anderson and his wife Sarah owned “Thomby”, a landholding near Theodore. They had a large family of four sons and four daughters (a fifth daughter died soon after childbirth). The youngest of the Anderson’s surviving children, Dulcibel (“Dulcie”), was just one year older than Betty, and Dulcie and Betty became good friends.
In May 1937 Dulcie married my mother’s brother, Harold Beaumont, of Rannes, and moved to Rannes. The tiny town of Rannes, a ghost town today, is located in central Queensland, 104 kilometres (65 miles) southwest of Rockhampton, and 24 kilometres (15 miles) south of Wowan.
Around the same time (1937) the Millers left “Pretty Plains” and moved to “Woolly Springs” near Jooro (between Rannes and Goovigen). At last, Harold Miller had a property of his own, on which he could raise his own cattle.
At “Woolly Springs”, Betty was her father’s off-sider and Harold taught her all he knew about running a cattle property. Betty turned out to be a skilful horsewoman and always helped with the mustering. She was also the “postman”. Once a week, Betty rode her horse from their home to the Jooro railway siding, to collect the mail. The Millers had a mailbox at the post office in Rockhampton, and their mail was sent in a private mail bag via rail once a week.
After the move to “Woolly Springs”, Betty became acquainted with the Beaumont family, of Rannes. I’ve written about the Beaumonts previously, in Mons: Whose house is that? (November 27, 2016). Betty formed close relationships with Donald and Flora Beaumont (my grandparents, always “Mr and Mrs Beaumont” to Betty), Harold and Dulcie Beaumont (whom Betty already knew), and my mother, Evelyn. They would meet at sporting events and dances, held regularly at Rannes and Goovigen (and other little towns in the district).
In relation to Betty’s birth family (the Malugas), both Harold and Deede Miller were completely unselfish. To their credit, for as long as they lived, they made sure that Betty kept in contact with the family, especially her mother.
On 22 January 1938, Betty’s older sister, Gladys Maluga, married Frank Thomas Tysoe at the Wowan Methodist Church. Reverend W Cheetham officiated. The marriage united two “esteemed” families of the Dululu district. 
Happily, Gladys Maluga chose her sister Betty Miller, now 18, as her bridesmaid.
Miss Betty Miller, the bridesmaid, chose a pretty ankle-length frock of pink floral mariette, worn with a long sash and a pink posy at the side of the neck and a headdress of pleated tulle and pink flowers. She carried a bouquet of pink roses and ferns swathed in tulle and tied with pink satin ribbon. 
Betty Miller: Coming of age (1940s)
Deede Miller was a refined, educated, gifted woman. She taught Betty how to cook, sew, knit, crochet, and manage a household. But more than this, Deede (or “Da” as Betty called her) contributed significantly to Betty’s education. For example, from the beginning, Da used to make Betty read out loud from newspapers and the Bible, so she could help Betty improve her reading and correct Betty’s pronunciation.
From very early in their relationship Betty realized that Da had a strong Christian faith. Every day, Da read the Bible and encouraged Betty to read it too. Years later, when Da was old and her sight was failing, Betty would read a chapter of the Bible to her each day.
Betty attributed her strong Christian faith to Deede Miller’s teaching and example. In the 1940s, Betty endorsed her Christian commitment by confirmation in the tradition of the Anglican Church. To prepare, she took confirmation classes with Reverend Brother C Smith, of Biloela , who sent the lesson material to Betty by post. Betty and another young person from Rannes, John Becker, took their vows at a ceremony conducted by Bishop Fortescue Ash (Anglican Bishop of Rockhampton, 1928-1946) at the Rannes Hall.
For many years, Betty attended monthly church services at St Christopher’s Anglican Church, Jambin. Bishop Ash dedicated the neat little timber building on 14 May 1939.  (In 2020, this building remains a place of worship, with services still held once a month.)
Betty turned 21 on 29 August 1940. It was wartime.
In August 1940, Betty was still living at “Woolly Springs” with her adoptive parents. A year earlier, on 3 September 1939, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced the beginning of Australia’s involvement in the second World War.  Harold Miller, keen to contribute to the war effort once again, joined the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC), Australia’s home guard. 
As the war continued, the powers-that-be put increasing pressure on young women like Betty to contribute to Australia’s war effort by enlisting in one of Australia’s defence services. In September 1942, Evelyn Beaumont, one of Betty’s friends and someone she looked up to (Evelyn was 3 years older than Betty), enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF). Clearly, Evelyn’s decision had an impact on Betty. She told me: “I can always remember your mother at home on leave and coming to a dance at Rannes in full uniform.”
I’ve written previously about my mother Evelyn’s early life, including her time in the WAAAF, in My mother, a young woman (May 6, 2016).
Betty and Deede (“Da”) Miller contributed to the war effort by joining the Rannes branch of the Australian Comforts Fund.  They attended committee meetings, helped plan fundraising activities, gave monetary donations and knitted countless woollen garments. Following my visit to Betty in April 2016, Betty wrote and asked me to include the following “little passage” about it in her story:
During the war years, Da and I were members of a committee known as Australian Comforts Fund. I still have my badge with its six-point star and a band over the top, three points on which is Queensland Division. The badge is red enamel front with the letters ACF in the centre.
We used to be supplied with skeins of khaki wool in big skeins which we had to put on backs of chairs or get someone to hold their hands out with skeins on to roll into a ball to knit. I still have my little knitting book supplied by them with Australian Comforts Fund Queensland Division on the front cover, badge with ACF in the centre and price sixpence at the bottom. Inside are patterns of socks which were knitted on four steel needles (which I still have) and patterns of sleeveless pullovers, scarves and Balaclava caps. I mostly did socks. I must have knitted dozens of pairs, as we always took our knitting wherever we went. “Oh, those days.”
I’ve since found newspaper reports about fundraising activities of the Rannes Branch of the Australian Comforts Fund [19, 20], including a sports day in 1941 in which Miss Betty Miller won three of the novelty events:
The Rannes branch of the ACF held a successful and profitable sports day on Saturday. Practically every resident of the district attended, also visitors from outside towns and properties. A profit of £70 was accrued from the day’s sports and dance at night. A programme of interesting sports and novelty events was arranged. Miss Betty Miller won three events, throwing the broom, cutting the ham, and catching the rooster. …
After the war was over, the Millers joined many other Australians in supporting the “Food for Britain Appeal”. They participated in fundraising activities of the Rannes Food for Britain Appeal Committee and gave monetary donations as well. In fact, in perhaps the final collection of 1946, Harold Miller gave £5 (equivalent to about $360 AUD today), the largest single donation by an individual. In the same collection Deede Miller and Betty Miller each contributed £1/15/3 (approximately $130 AUD today).  I have no doubt that the far-from-wealthy Millers were extremely generous.
One event Betty never forgot was the 1942 Rannes flood.
On 16 February 1942, a tropical cyclone crossed the coast near Cardwell, north Queensland, and by 18 February it moved back out to sea north of Mackay. The accompanying rainfall caused serious flooding in rivers in the lower reaches of the Fitzroy River system. The Don River at Rannes reached a height of 14 metres (46 feet), breaking the 1928 flood record by 0.762 metre (2 feet 6 inches). At a point opposite Rannes the river was more than 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) wide and running very strongly. Due to the danger of the river rising even higher, Rannes residents were evacuated by means of a stranded mail train. 
The floodwaters at Rannes caused significant damage in the town and district. Hundreds of cattle were washed away and some were caught in trees up to 12 metres (40 ft) above the ground. The water flooded many buildings, including the railway station, post office and store. The butcher shop was completely demolished. Many outbuildings, sheds, and garages were washed away. Railway lines, fences, bridges, telephone lines were damaged and many washouts were caused on the roads. The township was without any communication with the outside world for nearly a week. 
Betty recalled details of the 1942 Rannes flood in a letter to us on 25 July 2015. She wrote:
Where the main highway is now, before the flood was the station master’s house on high blocks, the hotel, Rankin’s boarding house, post office and Norman Becker’s butcher shop, and they were washed away or badly damaged. So Norman [the butcher] closed in one square underneath Harold and Dulcie [Beaumont]’s house with hessian to make a butcher’s shop to serve the local people as quite a few families lived in Rannes at that time. Also, as the river was over the railway bridge the train was held just outside Rannes and the women cooked meals for those passengers on the train. You probably knew some cattle from Calliungal Station were washed away and drowned, some left hanging in trees.
My uncle, Harold Beaumont, of Rannes, took the photos I’ve included here. They are rare images of the 1942 Rannes flood. The photo captions are based on the notes Harold wrote on the back of the photos.
Betty Miller: 30 and counting (late 1940s and 1950s)
In 1949, the Millers sold “Woolly Springs” and moved to Yeppoon. (Yeppoon is a town on the central Queensland coast, 42 kilometres northeast of Rockhampton.) For the next couple of years, the family lived in a little cottage at Yeppoon’s Cooee Bay.
Deede Miller had two sisters, both of whom had been living at Yeppoon for some time. In fact, they lived in the home of my mother’s Aunt Emma, in Spring Street, Yeppoon. You can read about my great aunt, Emma Beaumont, in Mons: Whose house is that? (November 27, 2016).
Sadly, one of Deede’s sisters, Jessie Redmond, a single woman, died on 27 September 1949, around the time the Millers moved to Yeppoon. She was 63. 
In the early 1950s, Harold Miller, now in his 60s, bought a small dairy farm at Kalapa, about 30 kilometres west of Rockhampton. Deede was nearly blind, so Harold employed Pat Allen, a 13-year-old from St George’s Home, Parkhurst (on the northern outskirts of Rockhampton), to care for Deede. Betty helped the ageing Harold manage the farm.
A few years later, death struck again. Deede’s surviving sister, Emma Dumble, a widow, died on 12 July 1957. Emma was 82.  Betty helped Deede organize Emma’s funeral. Little did Betty know that she would be organizing Deede’s own funeral in just four months’ time. Deede Miller died on 5 November 1957. She was 77. 
In late 1957 or early 1958, following Deede’s death, Harold Miller sold the Kalapa farm and bought a house in Edington Street, North Rockhampton. This was to be Betty’s home for the next 10 years or so.
Betty Miller: 40 and counting (1960s)
I was a child when I met Betty Miller in the early 1960s. My earliest memory is accompanying my mother to visit Betty and her father, Harold Miller, at their home in Edington Street, North Rockhampton. I can still see Betty, a friendly matronly woman I judged to be about my mother’s age, and Mr Miller, an old man, frail and small of stature, standing at the top of the front stairs of their modest high-set timber dwelling. I can hear Betty speaking, in her loud and somewhat raspy voice, welcoming us to her home. She exuded warmth, strength and energy.
Betty Miller was in her 40s and still single. Although at least two suitors had pursued her, Betty declined any offers of marriage. She wanted to stay with the Millers. They had been so kind to her that she resolved to care for them, in the same way they had cared for her, as long as they lived.
Betty continued to keep in touch with her birth mother, Mary Annie (“Maryann”) Maluga. The Millers had made sure of that. In 1963, Maryann Maluga was working as a cook at St Faith’s School for Girls, Yeppoon. When Betty learned that Maryann was to have cataract surgery and needed to have drops in her eyes for 7 days prior to the surgery, Betty offered to help. Harold Miller insisted that Maryann should stay with them at their home in Edington Street. So, for a week commencing in late May 1963, Betty cared for her birth mother, in the same way she had cared for her adoptive mother. Maryann told Betty, “This is the best week of my life. I’m being looked after, cared for by my daughter, and for the first time in my life I don’t have to go to work.”
Maryann Maluga never had the cataract surgery. After admission to hospital, she suffered a massive stroke, and died within hours. Betty was present with her birth mother during the last week of her life, and at the very end. She was forever thankful to Harold for inviting Maryann to stay with them that week. Mary Annie Maluga died on 5 June 1963. She was 67. 
Betty continued to care for Harold until his death, which occurred just six months later, on 9 December 1963. He was 75.  Harold’s body was interred in the North Rockhampton Cemetery, alongside that of his wife and her two sisters.
Betty Miller: The mid-late 1960s
After Harold died, Betty continued to live in the house at Edington Street, North Rockhampton. After all, it was her home now. Over the next few years, Betty earned a living as a seamstress (she took in sewing at home), an in-home carer (yes, looking after old folk), and finally a support worker at Rockhampton’s Eventide Home for the Aged.
Betty was a long-time friend of Harold and Dulcie Beaumont. This is the uncle and aunt of whom I wrote in Auntie Dulcie and the Bung-in Cake (April 14, 2016). Betty was also a friend of Dulcie’s older sister, Sylvia Anderson, who lived in Rockhampton and worked as a nurse (sister-in-charge of theatre) at Rockhampton’s St John’s Hospital, the former Tannachy Private Hospital. (Both hospitals no longer exist.) Thus, through the 1960s, I had ongoing contact with Betty, and often heard about her, not only from my parents but also via my uncle and aunt, and Sylvia.
Dulcie and Sylvia had a brother, Bill, on whom they doted. Actually, they had four brothers, but Bill was their favourite. As a child, I met Bill on several occasions while visiting Dulcie and Harold at Rannes. Like his siblings, Bill grew up on the Anderson family property “Thomby”, near Theodore. As a young man, Bill worked on “Thomby”. However, in 1936, Bill purchased from his father the northern portion of “Thomby”, just over 10,000 hectares (approximately 25,000 acres), which Bill named “Junedale”. 
In 1960, Bill Anderson married a divorcee, Doris Mary Axelsen. From all reports, the marriage was a good one, and the couple were very happy. (I learnt years later that Bill, also, had been married before. Bill’s first marriage, in 1933, to Cecilia Conron, a governess at “Thomby”, ended in divorce in 1941. )
Sadly, Bill’s marriage to Doris was short-lived. In October 1961, Doris died unexpectedly following surgery to remove a melanoma on her big toe. Bill was devastated. So were other members of the Anderson family, including Dulcie and Sylvia. Worse still, Doris left behind a 12-year old daughter from her previous marriage, Leigh, whom Bill had legally adopted following his marriage to Doris.
Leigh attended boarding school, St Faith’s School for Girls, Yeppoon. During the school holidays she would return home to Bill at “Junedale”. In May 1963, my “Auntie Dulcie” invited me to come to “Junedale” for the school holidays, as company for Leigh. I was two or three years younger than Leigh. Dulcie was our chaperone, as Bill lived alone.
During my stay at “Junedale”, I got to know Bill Anderson a little better. He was a quiet, unpretentious, kindhearted soul. But, clearly, he was lonely.
Thus, it came as no surprise to me when, in 1967, Bill Anderson announced he planned to marry again. And whom did he choose as his new wife? Betty Miller.
Bill Anderson and Betty Miller: The courtship
Bill Anderson and Betty Miller had known each other for many years, although not closely until they started to spend time together in the years following Doris’ death.
The union was vehemently opposed by Dulcie and Sylvia (and possibly other members of Bill’s family). I remember this episode, with much sadness. It must have been a distressing time for Betty. Like my parents, I thought Bill’s decision to marry Betty was a good one, that the marriage would be a blessing for both of them.
Given the Anderson family’s opposition to the marriage, Betty told me she declined Bill’s initial proposal.
Bill, however, did not give up. He knew what he wanted, and (I believe) the family’s antagonism towards Betty (as a wife for Bill) made him even more determined to marry her. According to Betty, Bill told her, “I want you to marry me, not the bloody family.”
Bill’s stepdaughter, Leigh, was happy about the marriage. At the end of the year, on completion of her secondary schooling, Leigh planned to move to Toowoomba for tertiary study and reconnection with her relatives there. Leigh and Bill had never been close, even though Bill had always been good to Leigh and spared no expense in trying to make her happy.
Thus, on 18 November 1967, at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Rockhampton, William Samuel James (“Bill”) Anderson, 57, married Elizabeth Annie (“Betty”) Miller, 48. Bill’s step-daughter Leigh attended as Betty’s bridesmaid, and Bill’s friend and neighbour, Graham Ewart, was best man.
Bill and Betty Anderson: The “Junedale” years (1967-1979)
After her marriage, Betty sold her Rockhampton house and moved to “Junedale”. Here she and Bill made their home for the next 12 years, which Betty described as “happy years, very happy”.
Betty readily adjusted to country living. It was like returning to her roots. Years earlier, on “Woolly Springs”, Harold Miller had trained Betty to work with cattle, so naturally Betty offered to help Bill with the mustering. When Bill refused her offer, she donned a pair of Bill’s trousers and his old riding boots and joined him anyway. Surprised, Bill responded, “I didn’t marry you to do this. I didn’t know I married a Jackaroo as well as a cook!” When Bill realized that Betty was serious about helping him, and more than competent to do so, he purchased Betty proper work clothes. From that time onwards, Betty always helped Bill with the cattle.
It was during her time at “Junedale” that Betty became acquainted with Russell and Marion Becker and their children. The Beckers owned “Highworth”, a neighbouring property.
Like Deede Miller, Betty’s adoptive mother, Betty never had children of her own. Both Deede and Betty dearly sought to be mothers. In Deede’s case, the answer came in the form of “Betty Maluga” and a legal adoption. In Betty’s case, there were several “adoptions”, none of them legal, but each one just as real. The Becker family is one example. The Poole family is another.
Bill and Betty Anderson: The Rockhampton years (1979-1984)
Like my father, Bill Anderson served in the 2nd AIF during World War II. And, like my father, due to the cigarettes he was provided during his war service and his subsequent smoking habit, Bill Anderson ended up with emphysema in later life. In 1979, when Bill came down with a bout of pneumonia, he nearly died. He was transported by ambulance to Rockhampton for emergency treatment. After he recovered, Bill’s physician told Bill and Betty that Bill’s condition was so serious they should not return to “Junedale”. He advised them to find a suitable dwelling in Rockhampton, preferably a low-set house on ground level, as Bill would no longer be able to negotiate stairs.
The Beckers supported Bill and Betty through this difficult episode. While Bill was still in hospital, Marion Becker helped Betty find the kind of dwelling the doctor ordered – a low-set house on ground level – a roomy three-bedroom brick home at 20 Geaney Street, North Rockhampton. Here, Betty was destined to live for the next 24 years!
Russell and Marion Becker helped Bill and Betty with their move from “Junedale” to Rockhampton, as did Doug Poole, a young man who was working for Bill and Betty at “Junedale” at the time.
In Rockhampton, Bill and Betty made a new life for themselves. Betty took on a caring role again, this time as carer for her husband. Bill, however, made sure Betty had time for herself and others, and he encouraged her to participate in useful activities outside of the home. Thus, soon after moving to Rockhampton, Betty joined St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Ladies Guild, St Andrew’s Hospital Guild, War Widow’s Guild of Australia, and Legacy.
The Beckers maintained regular contact with Bill and Betty. When the time came for Bill and Betty to sell “Junedale”, Bill kept his promise to give Russell and Marion first offer on the property. Unfortunately, the Beckers couldn’t raise enough funds to reach the asking price. Bill really wanted them to have the property, so he made a deal with them they couldn’t refuse. The Beckers never forgot the generosity that Bill and Betty showed them in helping them secure “Junedale”.
Doug Poole also kept in contact with Bill and Betty. Not long after they moved to Rockhampton, he introduced them to Kathy Sands, his girlfriend. Kathy, from Emerald, was a trainee nurse at a Rockhampton hospital. Betty and Bill opened their home and hearts to Kathy – she came to stay with them often on her days off. Bill and Betty, who became like family to Kathy, continued to play an important part in the lives of Doug and Kathy after their marriage. Like the Beckers, Doug and Kathy were like family to Bill and Betty.
Another “adoptee” was Patricia Anderson, of Rockhampton, the young Scottish wife of one of Bill’s nephews through marriage. Bill and Betty supported Patricia during her marriage and subsequent marriage breakdown and custody battle. Patricia suffered greatly during this period of her life and yet, on a positive note, she knew that Bill and Betty were always there for her, as they looked after her like she was their own.
Fortunately for Bill and Betty, Bill survived almost five years after their move to Rockhampton. It was much longer than they had hoped for, so Betty was always thankful for the “extra” time they had together. Bill died on 20 June 1984. He was 74.
After just 17 years of marriage, Betty was destined to spend the next 36 years of her life as a widow. When Bill died, Betty was 64, going on 65.
Betty Anderson: 65 and counting (1984-2002)
From 1979, when Bill and Betty moved to Rockhampton, Betty attended St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Rockhampton. Here she made many new friends and reconnected with old ones. Margaret McKenzie, one of Betty’s old friends, was a long-time member of the church and a stalwart of St Andrew’s Ladies’ Guild (which Betty also joined). Margaret was also a friend, former nursing colleague and next-door neighbour of Sylvia Anderson.
You may recall that Sylvia and my aunt Dulcie (Beaumont) were Bill Anderson’s sisters. Dulcie, much younger than both Sylvia and Bill, predeceased them. After a long battle with emphysema, Dulcie died on 10 December 1983. She was just 65. I’ve written about this in some detail in Auntie Dulcie and the Bung-in Cake (April 14, 2016).
By the mid-1980s, Sylvia’s health was failing. Since Sylvia lived alone, she depended more and more on Betty and Margaret for her care needs. Sylvia, a spinster, chose Betty to manage her affairs (under enduring power of attorney legislation). Not so long ago, Sylvia opposed Betty’s marriage to her brother Bill, but now she needed Betty’s help. Betty, ever forgiving, took on yet another long-term caring role.
Caring for the sick and elderly seems to have been Betty’s lot in life! And Betty did it with such grace and patience. She never complained. When Sylvia’s care needs became such that she could no longer live at home, Betty arranged for Sylvia to be cared for at Bethany, one of Rockhampton’s residential aged care facilities. Betty and Margaret visited Sylvia regularly. Sylvia Isabella Mary Anderson (“Andy” to those closest to her) died at St Andrew’s (Hillcrest) Private Hospital, Rockhampton, on 18 September 1991. She was 84.  Sylvia outlived her brother Bill, two years her junior, by seven years. Sylvia’s death signalled the end of yet another long period of caring on Betty’s part.
In 1989, after Tony and I and our children started attending St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Rockhampton, we reconnected with Betty, not only as friends, but as fellow believers. Although Betty was 70 years old by this time, to me she was just as strong and energetic, as the time I first met her.
For eight years, from the beginning of 1995 to the end of 2002, Tony served as Assistant to the Minister at St Andrew’s. In this role, his responsibilities included pastoral visitation. Betty was one of the many parishioners he visited and ministered to on a regular basis. Betty loved Tony and loved his ministry to her. She certainly missed him, and his visits, after we moved to Brisbane in 2003. (Betty often told us so in her letters and during our phone conversations.)
Patricia Anderson was also a member of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. In the 1990s, some years after her marriage ended, Patricia returned to Scotland to spend time with her ageing parents. Given their close relationship (Patricia was like a daughter to Betty), Betty missed Patricia terribly, and prayed constantly for Patricia’s return.
Betty was aware that a Rockhampton man, Blair Horner, wanted to marry Patricia. He followed her to Scotland and eventually Patricia accepted his proposal. In 1997, Patricia and Blair returned to Rockhampton. Betty was so thrilled about Patricia’s return, that she hosted a “Welcome Home” party for Patricia at her Geaney Street home. Betty’s neighbours, Betty’s and Patricia’s church friends (including Tony and me), several relatives, and the Becker family, were there. It was a huge celebration.
A year earlier, in January 1996, my mother Evelyn turned 80. Evelyn invited Betty, one of her oldest friends, to her 80th birthday party. Three and a half years later, in August 1999, when Betty turned 80, Tony and I, and Evelyn, along with Betty’s extended “family” and many church friends, helped Betty celebrate her 80th birthday. For Betty and Evelyn, these two events saluted a friendship that spanned 60 years.
Betty Anderson: The fourth age (2003-2020)
Around the same time Tony and I moved to Brisbane in 2003, Betty moved too, but only to the other side of town. Her move was triggered by a health scare in 2002, when she had major surgery as a result of bowel cancer. Although she recovered fully, at 83 going on 84, Betty decided it was time “to find somewhere else to live” (her words). Patricia Horner had Betty apply for a place at The Range Village, as it was close to Patricia’s and Blair’s home on the southside of town.
When an independent living unit at the complex became vacant, Betty sold her home in Geaney Street, North Rockhampton, and moved to The Range Village. This comfortable two-bedroom unit, with its splendid views over the city of Rockhampton and the Berserker Range, was set to became Betty’s home for the next 14 years.
Marion Becker, Kathy Poole and Patricia Anderson facilitated Betty’s move to The Range Village, doing all the packing and cleaning on Betty’s behalf. Betty told me she was so grateful for what they did, as she couldn’t have made the move without their help. At 83, Betty was already in the “fourth age” of life. It’s that time of life most of us don’t look forward to, when our health fails and we must accept more help and care from others. 
Betty Anderson knew about ageing, and death, and it didn’t frighten her. She had cared for Deede and Harold (Miller), Bill (her husband), Sylvia (her sister-in-law) – and others – in their later years. Betty looked after her birth mother, Maryann Maluga, during the last week of Maryann’s life and was present when Maryann died. Some people don’t want to think about ageing, and death, because it confronts them with their own mortality. Not so our Betty.
As her health deteriorated, Betty adjusted to and acknowledged her diminished capacities, subsequent losses and shrinking horizons. Without complaint, without regret. In 2008, she willingly gave up her driver’s licence, and her car, after “a slight stroke” earlier that year. In a letter dated 6 September 2008, Betty wrote:
As I have no car now, I depend on good friends or taxis. I had a slight stroke back in April, really only a blackout, so I was advised not to drive again. Am lucky, really, and thank God for the warning.
As early as 2012, when Betty was 92 and still reasonably fit and able, she asked me if Tony would conduct her funeral service “when the time comes”. I reassured her that he would, God willing. She asked on more than one occasion. “When my time comes for me to say goodbye … would you be honoured to do it for me please, Tony?” Betty wrote on 8 February 2015. In a follow-up letter on 1 March 2015, she wrote:
Thank you for your phone message, Judy. It was wonderful news to me. I thank Tony very much for his kindness in offering to do for me later if he is able, although I realize his health at times is not so good. But our good Lord keeps him every day…. I do love you both for being such dear friends to me in so many ways.
In her later years, Betty had a number of health scares. Amazingly, she recovered from each one, despite a prognosis to the contrary. What was the secret of her strength, her motivation to get better? In a letter dated 24 March 2013, I think she provided the answer:
God certainly is good with His healing power to so many of us and I thank Him each day in my prayers for what He does for me.
Despite Betty’s failing heath, her letters kept coming. She wrote to us often. Her letters were newsy, interesting and encouraging. Betty always included an update on her health. She reported her progressive “losses” (handwriting, eyesight, needlework, mobility, St Andrew’s Ladies’ Guild membership, baking) in a matter-of-fact manner, with surprising acquiescence. For example, at 96 years of age, while still living independently at The Range Village, she wrote:
I felt it time I put pen to paper again to you. Sorry about this [lined] paper, but [I] can see the lines better. Even then [I] run off the lines at times. My eyesight is failing. Got new glasses a few weeks ago but are disappointing, as I can no longer do cross stitch. [I] can’t see when the needle goes into the right hole and my fingers are getting stiff from Osteo. And, as you know, my feet and legs feel at times they don’t belong to me, also pain a lot at times. A real sad story of myself, aren’t I?? Then, when I go out and see others who cannot walk at all, I thank God every day I can still do everything for myself. (2 April 2016)
I felt not able to be of personal help to the Guild, so resigned. I explained to Ailsa [the President], as she came up to see me. But I’m sure God knows the situation and understands. (2 April 2016)
My balance is getting worse, so I use my wheelie walker a lot. I still go on the bus each Monday to do my shopping. Not doing much baking [now] but surprised myself by baking two batches of Anzac biscuits, being Anzac Day on the Monday. (30 May 2016)
In May 2017, during a trip to Rockhampton, Tony and I paid Betty a visit.
By this time, Betty’s care needs were such that she had moved from her unit at The Range Village to a small two-room suite at McAuley Place (a residential care facility in the same complex). Betty was in good spirits, and (as always) happy to speak to us about her life, her faith, and the people that mattered to her. She began by saying:
“I thank the Lord every day for His care. Even after my recent fall when I was bedridden and depressed for two or three weeks, I still have a lot to be thankful for.”
It was true. Betty could always find something to be thankful for.
After we had spent about an hour with Betty, Tony taking notes as Betty recounted facts about her life, Tony read Psalm 23 to her. Then, to our surprise, Betty recited the words of Psalm 121! She said, “It’s my favourite Psalm.” Betty reminded us that her adoptive mother, Deede, encouraged her to read and memorize the Scriptures. Together, then, we sung the words of Psalm 23, which Betty also knew by heart.
Our visit to Betty on 7 May 2017 ended with Betty telling us how she was distributing her “goods and chattels”. For me, Betty had set aside a crystal plate. It was one Dr Norman Talbot gave to Sylvia Anderson and which Betty acquired when Sylvia died. Betty reminded me of my connection to Dr Talbot (of the former Tannachy Private Hospital, Rockhampton): “He delivered you.” Handing me the plate, Betty said, “I want you to have it, because you knew Sylvia and you were close to her.” Dear, dear Betty. Always thinking of others, even at the sunset of her life.
I believe the biggest test of Betty’s later life came in her 90th year.
In February 2009, Patricia Horner, Betty’s dear friend and primary carer at the time, was diagnosed with lung cancer and secondaries in the brain. Despite intensive radium treatment in Brisbane (Tony and I remember visiting Patricia while she was in hospital in Brisbane), Patricia’s condition deteriorated rapidly. In early August, while in hospital in Rockhampton, Patricia had a fall and, by mid-August, she was bed-ridden. By this time, according to Betty, “Patricia had lost control of her legs, spoke in a whisper and sometimes her words wouldn’t come out”. Betty was spending a lot of time with Patricia, which was not surprising, given that Betty and Patricia were like mother and daughter. For Betty, Patricia’s death on 22 September 2009 was a terrible loss. Betty was 90 years old; Patricia was 66.
When I visited Betty seven years later, in April 2016, Betty spoke a lot about Patricia, but without bitterness or self-pity. Betty had come to terms with Patricia’s death, and accepted it as God’s will for Patricia (and herself). Betty told me that Blair, Patricia’s husband, looked after her now, just as Patricia had done, taking her to appointments and visiting her once a week, on Sundays, without fail.
In Betty’s later life, many people supported and cared for her. As well as Blair Horner, Betty’s friends Neville and Margaret Featherstone (from St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church) were among those who maintained close contact with Betty and visited her often.
Throughout the years Betty lived at The Range Village, and especially during the two years she spent at McAuley Place, the Sisters of Mercy tended to Betty’s emotional and spiritual needs. When Betty could no longer attend church services at St Andrew’s, the nuns ministered to her. During Betty’s stay at McAuley Place, the nursing and support staff provided a level of personal care second-to-none.
But the main load of care was borne by Betty’s “family”: Russell and Marion Becker, and Doug and Kathy Poole. Just as Betty committed herself to caring for Harold and Deede Miller until the end of their lives, the Becker and Poole families chose to look after Betty, as they would their own mother, until the very end.
Betty’s 100th birthday celebration
A year ago, on Thursday 29 August 2019, Tony and I attended Betty Anderson’s 100th birthday celebration. We joined about eighty of Betty’s family and friends for High Tea at “The Church” events venue, the former St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Bolsover and Derby streets, Rockhampton.
The venue was special. Here, in this building, 52 years ago, Betty and Bill were married. For almost 40 years, this building was Betty’s place of worship and Christian fellowship. Betty and her late husband Bill had contributed significant funds to help maintain the building’s magnificent pipe organ.
On arrival at the venue, one couldn’t help but notice the boxes of Jelly Slice: Betty’s signature slice! There was a box for every guest: A tribute to Betty’s baking skills and generous hospitality, and a memento of the occasion. What a great idea!
Marion Becker and Kathy Poole and their families organised and hosted the event. Kay Wells (nee Becker) was emcee and Tony began the proceedings by saying grace. After the High Tea, prior to Betty’s cutting of the cake, Kay read to Betty messages of congratulation from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor-General of Australia, the Governor of Queensland, the Prime Minister of Australia, the Premier of Queensland, and the Mayor of Rockhampton (I hope I didn’t omit any!).
The event concluded in the garden outside, where Betty posed for photographs with her guests, in twos, threes or family groups.
Betty Anderson died on 25 February 2020, six months after her 100th birthday.
In keeping with Betty’s wishes, Tony conducted her funeral service. The service was held on Monday 2 March 2020, at the East Chapel of the Rockhampton Crematorium, North Rockhampton. With few exceptions, everyone who attended Betty’s 100th birthday celebration was there. Not to celebrate, but to thank God for Betty and her long life, a life in which she lovingly served God and her many “neighbours” (Matthew 22:34-40).
Tony included a reading of Psalm 121, Betty’s favourite psalm, in the service and used Psalm 121 as the basis of his message (or “Words of Hope”). He concluded his message with this statement:
On the journey of life, the Lord is there: 24/7, day and night. At every stage of our journey, whether in the growing years of childhood, the demanding years of becoming an adult, middle age and the significant years of retirement and ageing – He’s there. God never wearies of us and never leaves us.
I’m sure Betty would have agreed.
● ● ●
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
(King James Version – This is the version Betty memorized.)
● ● ●
BETTY’S JELLY SLICE
Crush 1 x 250 g pkt shortbread biscuits.
Add 125 g melted butter.
Mix well and press firmly into a 27.5 cm X 17.5 cm slice tin, and chill.
Dissolve a heaped dessertspoon (1 sachet) gelatine in ¾ cup boiling water and add to 1 can condensed milk in a mixing bowl.
Mix well, then stir in 1/3 cup of lemon juice.
Mix well together and pour over biscuit base and chill.
Dissolve 1 raspberry jelly in 1 cup of boiling water till dissolved.
Then add ¾ cup cold water and pour over chilled fillings.
Note: I sometimes add about ½ teaspoon gelatine to jelly if I want it to set firmer for transporting.
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