Fanny Ann Cawthorn was the second daughter born to Charles and Jean Cawthorn in Ardlethan, New South Wales, in April 1921. Later that year they returned to Tasmania and decided to farm at Dover, south of Hobart, where four more sisters were born. The girls attended the Dover school and Fan was fortunate to gain a scholarship to Hobart High School, boarding with a friend at her great-aunt’s home until the rest of the family moved up, three years later, in 1937.
She was a very good student with book prizes gracing our bookshelves. She continued to do very well in her career as a secretary at the Postmaster General’s Department [PMG/Post Office]. During the war, she enlisted in the WRAAF as a clerk in 1941. It was at this time that she became known as Fay.
After two years in the Education and Aptitude testing section in Hobart, she spent two years at the Department of Training in Statistics, vocational guidance and psychological testing in Melbourne where she lived with her aunt’s family in Kew along with her sister Kath who was at the University of Melbourne. During this time, Fay matriculated part-time and commenced a part-time university course.
In March 1945, she married Les Patterson who she had met at dance class in Hobart before the war. His younger sister had been in the same year at Hobart High School. They became engaged when he returned from the Middle East in 1944 and were married in March 1945 while he was on leave from New Guinea.
After the war, Les returned to the Commonwealth Bank in Hobart, studying Commerce part-time at University and also playing first grade football, while Fay had three daughters; Janet, Sally and Diana, In 1950 they built their first home but by the end of 1953, with a baby son Michael as well, they had their first job transfer to Devonport in Northern Tasmania. With four children and away from family, Auntie Vera was a great support.
Eighteen months later they were back to Hobart, but in 1957, Les became a bank manager and they moved to Victoria for 3 years. Both Les and Fay became involved in the local community in Maryborough and it was there that they also took up golf.
In 1960 they returned to Hobart and their families, and Andrew arrived in mid 1961.
With the next move to Mildura in 1963, Fay continued her golf and found herself among the younger mothers as Andrew grew to school age. Over the six years in Mildura, Janet, Sally and Diana all left home for university in Melbourne and in 1969, her smaller family with two sons moved to Sydney, not far from her elder sister Margaret. Golf and embroidery continued in Fay’s life. Fay was a member of the Embroiderer’s Guild for many years, gaining a qualification in an English course along with only one other person. Her creations adorned her homes.
In 1972, they moved to Ipswich in Queensland for 3 years, leaving Mick behind at university, but moving closer to Janet and Sally. The next move was to Townsville where they lived for 3 years in a wonderful old bank house overlooking Magnetic Island. Here, Fay was a founding member of a very successful Fibre and Fabrics Group which invited eminent tutors in a range of innovative subjects, and ran a wonderful annual exhibition.
In 1979 they decided to retire and returned to their house in Sydney to prepare it for sale. They found their retirement place at Mullumbimby early in 1980, at the time their second grandchild was born in North Qld. Janet had moved to Grafton, and Mick had moved to Brisbane. Andrew was in Sydney, and Diana in Melbourne.
With all their experience of moving to new places, they threw themselves into life in Mullum, joining the golf club and helping with its extension to 18 holes. With her experience of native plant propagation in Townsville, she provided a lot of plants for the course as well as building her present garden from a grassy paddock. Golf and needlework continued, and she extended herself into bridge and Probus. She was an avid reader, borrowing regularly from the Mullum library and enjoying fossicking through second hand books at St Vinnies.
Apart from the tragic loss of Mick in 1983, Fay and Les enjoyed retirement together at Mullum from 1980 until Les became ill in 1996. They travelled to UK and Europe several times as well as trips to see the family in Tasmania. Over these years, they kept up with old friends from old places with regular Christmas correspondence.
Fay had nearly 16 years on her own after Les died in 1997. She outlived four of her sisters and kept in touch by phone with Nancy in New Zealand, and the family in Hobart. She also did trips to Alaska and the Kimberley with her bridge partner, Doreen. She continued playing golf, winning a medal as best super veteran in her early 80s and her last monthly medal when she was 85 or 86.
She was a lifetime learner and did things well. This may account for her long, healthy and fulfilling life. She was fortunate to be able to live out her life as she had hoped – in her own home and still active in her garden and the bridge club, of which she had been a founding member and a proud life member.
She was very well prepared for when her time came and we can be thankful for her peaceful ending, in the familiar surroundings of Mullum hospital, surrounded with people she knew.
Fay is survived by her children Janet, Sally, Diana and Andrew and grandchildren Jim, Lesley and Emily. We thank those close to her in Mullumbimby who have cared for her over the years, particularly her bridge and golf friends, neighbours, doctors and associated staff, and those who helped keep her home in such good order.