By Jill Hosken, Celebrant
(with contributions from Tim, Stephen and John Harding)
Being born in 1924, Raie Harding grew up in very different times and throughout her long life she has witnessed more technological, political, economic and social changes than are ever likely to be experienced in one lifetime.
Raie was an only daughter born to Tom and Ruby Purvis and the family initially lived in South Caulfield before moving to Middle Brighton. With her Dad being an engineer and in regular work, despite the depression years Raie had a happy and settled childhood – nevertheless it is unlikely she could ever have envisaged the wonderful, rich experiences life had in store.
Her secondary years were at the prestigious MacRobertson Girls’ High, a selective entry school but with the unfolding of WW2 she left early and after completing business studies attained work at the Victoria Hotel in Little Collins St. In addition to her office duties, Raie helped organise events and tours to entertain the visiting US military officers (including swing bandleader Artie Shaw), many of whom were based in Melbourne – organisational skills which came to the fore later in life.
She’d known Bruce Harding, a local Brighton lad, since her early teens and when he returned from war service, they reconnected and ultimately married in the Melbourne Grammar School Chapel in 1948. The newlyweds bought a double block opposite Rickett’s Point, on the corner of Lang St and Point Ave surrounded by dirt tracks and ti-tree for the princely sum of £182/10. Despite the shortage of building materials, with Bruce being a qualified builder, he was able to construct what was to become the family home.
Over the ensuing eight years, they were blessed with three sons Tim, Stephen and John and even though they were pretty good as boys go, Raie still had her hands full!! Nevertheless, she relished her role as a mother and nurturer and always supported her three sons in their endeavours ensuring they had the best of opportunities and many wonderful experiences.
With four active males under her roof, Raie craved some girl time and was known to occasionally “borrow” a neighbour’s daughter, Sue McGregor who shared on hearing of Raie’s passing, how as a young girl, she loved opportunities to be in Raie’s company, learning to cook and sew.
Beaumaris back then was very isolated – there were no local shops and before getting a car, Raie would catch a bus to Black Rock to do the weekly shop. However, she was one of the first women in the neighbourhood to have a car, a Land Rover – probably the first SUV to be seen in the area!
The neighbours were like extended family – the boys related how each afternoon, the Point Avenue mothers would gather at one another’s home on rotation, vegies in hand and join together over a sherry as they prepared their respective evening meals. The neighbourhood kids enjoyed the freedom of playing in the bush or riding their bikes or going to the beach – the only condition being they were home by 6 for dinner.
Her sons appreciate the long leash they were given but also knew there were expectations such as good manners, respect and ethics which stood them all in good stead for the future.
In 1956, the year John was born, Bruce and Raie purchased “Shady Acres” in Macclesfield – a farm at which they spent many a weekend or school holidays getting back to basics with no power and no mod cons. Here they grew Angus beef cattle, Angora goats, pine trees and later on wine grapes – they also had horses which all the boys rode – a skill that Raie never quite mastered, despite having lessons and so when friends visited, often after enjoying a BBQ lunch they’d all head off for a ride, Raie was very unimpressed to be left cleaning up!
Later Raie and Bruce purchased a holiday home at Metung where sailing on the lakes and many happy times were enjoyed by all. When “Shady Acres” underwent some remodelling in the 80’s, Raie, being a very gifted seamstress sewed all the drapes, bedspreads and even the new upholstery for the lounge suite.
At home she also sewed, enjoyed creating a welcoming garden and for a time, having a neighbour who was a very talented artist and potter, Raie took up pottery. Raie also was a wonderful support to Bruce in his business and many a dinner party was enjoyed at their Beaumaris home by colleagues and friends alike. She was the consummate hostess and a gifted cook – she embraced cordon bleu cooking (very in vogue in the 70’s) and had all the fancy cookbooks of the era.
The boys recalled how their Mum would do a practice dinner party dinner on a Tuesday – always a new taste sensation. Raie also gave dedicated support in Bruce’s community work with the Beaumaris RSL and Legacy to which they gave a great deal of time supporting war widows and their children.
Perhaps it was through this that piqued Raie’s interest in Social Work – this together with her desire to prove, in the very male dominant world of the time, that despite limited education opportunities, women had a brain. So, aged 46, Raie enrolled in an Arts Degree at Melbourne Uni and Tim related how he enjoyed sitting in Politics lectures next to his Mum. In 1978 Raie proudly graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Social Work.
Over the years she and Bruce enjoyed a number of overseas trips and a well-remembered one was when she visited Steve whilst he was in London during the 70’s and they then toured Europe together.
After completing some extensive renovations (including electricity), Bruce and Raie moved to “Shady Acres” living there until Bruce died after a short illness in 1996. After coming to terms with this new reality, Raie moved back to Middle Brighton where she enjoyed a full and active life. She could often be found at Victoria Golf Club where through her 40 years of membership many strong friendships were forged
Playing golf into her early 80’s Raie then moved on to Bridge and enjoyed lunches and gatherings at Victoria with friends. She loved any opportunity to go to the movies, enjoyed shopping – was always on the hunt for a bargain and loved hopping on the train to visit Steve, Susie and the girls in Adelaide!
Raie had a very loving relationship not only with her three sons Tim, Steve and John, but also with her daughters-in-law Lisa and Susie. She was very grateful for the help they gave her, especially towards the end of her long life.
Three years ago, acknowledging she needed support and after doing her own research Raie made the decision to move to Karinya Grove Aged Care in Sandringham where she has been well cared for.
As she always had in the past, Raie continued to participate in and enjoy all the family gatherings and celebrations – birthdays, Christmases and retirements along with Carl and Jayne’s wedding. Raie particularly enjoyed visits from her beloved grandchildren – Georgia and Kate all the way from England, as well as from William and Angus. She loved hearing about their lives and various achievements.
She especially enjoyed celebrating her 95th birthday last October at Karinya with family and friends in attendance. All would agree, even with her decline in acuity in these past years Raie always made the best of things and did what she could to ensure those around her felt loved, connected and cared for.
“Lastly I must say thank you for the great privilege and all the joy and pleasure that I have experienced as Mum to my three wonderful boys and and their families. I leave you with all my everlasting love and the wish that most of the hopes and aspirations you may have had for the great journey of life that we began together will be realised.’ – Raie Harding