A LIFETIME in the Shoalhaven district came to a close on June 25 with the death of Alison Markham Blackmore OAM, aged 84.
Born on February 10, 1932 at Shoalhaven Private Hospital in Bridge Road, Nowra, she was the youngest child of Artie and Margaret Smith.
The family home on Friday’s Farm, Smith’s Lane, was the boundary between Pyree and Numbaa, with Alison becoming the third generation of her family to attend Pyree Public School, along with her brother John and sister Margaret.
As a child and teenager, she helped with milking and other farm duties, especially when her father was called away during World War II.
As secretary of the South Shoalhaven Patriotic War Fund, he often needed to be away organising farewell functions and returning home functions, for servicemen and women from the district.
Alison grew up attending dances on the family farm in the barn next to her grandparents’ house.
At these dances, she had many aunts and uncles who played a lively fiddle or a button accordion.
A number of these aunts and uncles were also part of musicals put on at the Pyree Hall where her father was also secretary.
Another lifelong interest Alison developed in these years was in the Nowra Show.
Her father was a longtime committeeman who took on responsibility for its catering during the hardest years of the Great Depression, assisted by Alison’s mother and her grand aunt Hannah Price.
Alison was still helping to cater at Nowra Shows until the late 1970s. She was a life member of the show society.
After WWII, Alison began attending dances further afield at which her sister would often play piano in the dance band.
At one of these dances at the Nowra School of Arts in 1949, she met her future husband Tom Blackmore, who was travelling around with a few of his friends from Sydney.
In 1953, Alison married Tom at Nowra’s All Saints Anglican Church.
Over the next decade, the couple had four children – Jennifer (1954), David (1957), John (1961), and Robyn (1962-1983).
During this period Tom, a builder by trade, had a serious work accident while supervising the construction of the Huskisson RSL Club in 1960.
Alison cared for her husband during his convalescence, after which he managed to finish building a family home in Jervis Street, Nowra. They continued to share almost 63 years of married life together in this house.
Alison had begun a long list of volunteer service in community organisations by the time her family was complete.
She worked hard to meet the challenges of helping to start new organisations in the 1960s and ’70s as the demand for them occurred about the town and the district.
Many fundraising ventures were undertaken, with cake stalls in the Lions Club caravan in Junction Street, Nowra being a favourite used by many of the organisations Alison was involved with.
The Nowra Chesalon Nursing Home (25 years service), Nowra Meals On Wheels (30 years service), the Shoalhaven District Hospital Auxiliary (40 years service), the Nowra Girl Guides Association (35 years service), the South Nowra Rotary Club (15 years involvement), the ladies auxiliaries of the Nowra Rovers Soccer Club, Shoalhaven District Soccer Association and Shoalhaven District Junior Cricket Association were all committees to benefit from Alison’s cooking for these cake stalls, and a myriad of other fundraising ventures.
Her work for the Parents and Citizens Associations of Nowra East Public School in its foundation years after 1964 and Nowra High School, extended to around 20 years, where she also often worked as a volunteer in both school canteens.
Tom was instrumental in founding the soccer fields at South Nowra in the late 1960s and Alison ran the first canteens there with a small group of ladies.
Soccer gala days and tournaments for the fledgling Shoalhaven Association were long days in the canteen for Alison, with her work continuing well after the sport had finished and most had gone home.
Other venues at which she helped in the canteen included the Artie Smith Oval (opened in 1965 and named after her father), Lyrebird Park (opened in 1971) and Bomaderry Oval (in the mid to late 1970s).
Alison was involved with a charity organisation known as the Order of The Amaranth for over 50 years. In recent times she was given Honoured Lady status.
She made many lifelong friendships travelling to meetings in Milton, Kiama, Wollongong, the Central Coast and Sydney, with a highlight being a tour around all the mainland states of Australia in 1991/92, assisting the head of the organisation for that year.
In 1976, along with Joan Wilds, Alison was made a Life Governor of Sydney Hospital in recognition of their charity work for the hospital.
Other highlights included training debutantes and their partners for balls in Nowra and Bomaderry for over 40 years, raising funds for the Bomaderry Community Centre building, as well as receiving a NSW Premier’s Award in 1987.
Alison and other family members were at the heart of a social tennis group called the Monday Tennis Girls from the early 1960s until the 2000s, playing at courts like Miss Scarlett’s in Douglas Street, Nowra and Cambewarra Road at Bomaderry, before settling at All Saints Church in Nowra until they were all in their 70s and retirement beckoned.
Alison’s highest accolade came in the 2000 Queen’s Birthday Honours List when she was awarded the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia for “service to the community of the Nowra region”, along with her sister Margaret McGuire, who received an OAM in the same ceremony.
Alison joined the Order of Australia Association when a local branch was formed in the Shoalhaven soon after.
She enjoyed being on the committee for organising its annual luncheon for a number of years, but unfortunately needed a lifesaving operation in 2006, after which she had not been able to attend these dinners every year.
Left to mourn her passing are her husband Tom, her sister-in-law Margaret Smith, her three surviving children, her grandchildren, and her wider family.
Her funeral service was held at All Saints Anglican Church in Nowra on July 1.