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Celebrating Miriam’s 97th birthday

Miriam, one of our church’s longest-serving parishioners, celebrated her 97th birthday recently.
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Miriam at a luncheon with family and friends on her 97th birthday, 10 June 2021. One of her church friends, Ellen Bawtree, looks on as Miriam cuts her birthday cake. Photo source: Private collection 2021.

Miriam’s story

Miriam was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) on 10 June 1924. She was the second child of Alton and Grace Francke. When she was 21, Miriam married Noel, a man quite a number of years older than her. The couple had two children, a daughter and a son. Noel died, tragically, in 1972.

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Miriam (left) with her parents and brother, Leonard, in front of their Colombo home, c. 1973. Photo source: Private collection.

In 1974, at 50 years of age and widowed, Miriam migrated to Australia. Miriam brought her elderly parents and 13-year-old son with her. Miriam’s daughter, her daughter’s husband and Miriam’s granddaughter had been in Brisbane for about 3 years prior to Miriam’s arrival.

The family spent one week in Sydney and one week in Melbourne (they had relatives there) before coming to Brisbane, where they planned to settle. That was 47 years ago! 

At first, Miriam and the family lived at West End. From the start, Miriam – a Christian – chose St Andrew’s Anglican Church South Brisbane, as her new church family. In 1974, Reverend William (“Bill”) Carter was still here, although about to leave. Miriam remembers when Reverend Tom Wood was appointed the new rector. As a member of St Andrew’s for 47 years, Miriam has sat under the ministry of four successive rectors!

As a member of St Andrew’s for 47 years, Miriam has sat under the ministry of four successive rectors!

While at West End, Miriam found work at the Queensland School for the Deaf, Cornwall Street, Dutton Park. The school operated from 1883 until the end of 1988, after which all children were placed in the mainstream school system. Miriam worked at the school for 12 years. Miriam’s son remembers, with much gratitude, how hard his mother worked during these years. After all, Miriam was the family’s only breadwinner at the time.  

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The Queensland Blind, Deaf and Dumb School at Cornwall Street, South Brisbane, 1930s. Photo by courtesy of Grant and Emily Golding. Source: Flickr. Public domain.

After five years at West End, Miriam, her son and parents moved to a house at East Brisbane. It was during that period, on 7 October 1980, that Miriam’s father died. He was 88 years old. Miriam’s mother outlived her husband by 11 years. She passed away on 1 September 1991, aged 103! Right up until her mother’s death, Miriam cared for her mother at home.

Miriam has moved house a number of times since coming to Brisbane. From East Brisbane, she moved with her son and mother to a housing commission property at Mount Gravatt. Next, she moved to Runcorn, where her son had built a house. Later, after her son married, Miriam moved back to Mount Gravatt, first to one property, then another. It was at the second property that Miriam finally settled. She lived there for about 20 years.

From her home at Mount Gravatt, while she was still able, Miriam would catch a bus to come to church services at St Andrew’s South Brisbane. She did this for many years. In recent years, as Miriam’s mobility declined, church friends then later support workers called by and transported Miriam to and from church by car.

Over the years, Miriam has been a member of a couple of different Bible study groups. One was a group of ladies most of whom belong to Brisbane’s Christian Sri Lankan community. The other was a Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) group, which she attended with fellow St Andrew’s parishioner Lorna Osborne.

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Miriam with church friends Peter and Lorna Osborne, at her 97th birthday luncheon. Photo source: Private collection 2021.

About eight months ago, Miriam moved house yet again, this time to a residential aged care home. After so many years living independently in her own home, it’s not been easy for Miriam adjusting to life in an institutionalized setting. Her new home is well-appointed and comfortable, and Miriam is well cared for, for which she is very grateful. But it’s just not the same as being in your own home.

Despite living so far away (the distance between her new residence and the church is about 18 kilometres), Miriam still attends Sunday services at St Andrew’s South Brisbane. Her son brings her every 3-4 weeks. Her presence, and faithfulness, is a powerful testimony to her love for the Lord Jesus and her commitment to the people of God.

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Miriam, as bright as ever, at 97 years old

We thank God for Miriam and her faithfulness

Today, at morning tea after the 8:30 am service, St Andrew’s parishioners celebrated Miriam’s 97th birthday, with a birthday cake, brief telling of her story, prayer, the “Happy Birthday” song and the Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:22-24).

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At St Andrew’s South Brisbane today: Miriam’s 97th birthday cake. Photo source: Private collection.

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  1. Jennifer Brown

    A lovely tribute, Judy.

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