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Wand and sisters
11 years ago

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Wand and sisters
11 years ago

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Earl Ewers
11 years ago

Wanda Villis was my mothers eldest sister and I had much to do with her from when I was a child until I was about 30 years of age. In fact, I stayed with her for 6 weeks March-April 1967 while waiting for my job in Canberra. She was a very bright person and also a very kind one. Any present she gave would be of good quality. She very avid reader, and worked out newspaper crosswords every morning as well as being a kean and high point Scrabble player. A very good cook and a whiz with dressmaking and needle work later in life became very adept at tapestry work. Along with Fred, her husband, they appeared on various 1950s quiz shows - quite often those hosted by Jack Davey. They came away with a good lot of prizes, including money. All her life Wanda liked to follow the races and later took up playing the poker machines - it was interesting to watch her hold her foot down as she pulled the handles on the earlier versions. But however much she loved to gamble on horses and machines, Wanda always had a limit to how much she would spend on this interest. When it was reached, she stopped - other gamblers could well note how she controlled her spending on what is an addiction for many folk. As her parents grew older Wanda did all she could for them. Assisted in this by next sister Austral, neither expected remuneration of any kind for their work. After her fathers death in November 1960, Wanda ensured all family business interests were well cared for - a relief for mother and her siblings Throughout her long life Wanda always took a deep interest in the world about her. In her younger years before World War II she had much to do with Latvian functions which were nearly always organsied in some way by her father who was Secretary of the Sydney Latvian Club. In fact, Wanda could not speak any English until she began school at 7 years of age. Few realised she knew a total of 6 languages: English, Latvian, French, German, Latin and Esperanto - the first 3 of these completely proficiently. Like her siblings, Wanda was always aware of her Latvian background but looked upon Australia as her domicile and loyalty. Just after the death of her daughter Nora in 2002, a Latvian journalist interviewed her and she broke out into some old Latvian songs she had sung at various functions. Another way she resembled her siblings was sudden moments of impish humour and as the interview was ending she asked the rather perplexed journalist whether there was electricity in Latvia - it seemed to go right over the head of the lass! Well aware of how the family were called "Dirty Stinking Russians" in Grafton during World War I, Wanda and my mother Regina had a feeling a need to help more modern newcomers to this country. While teaching at Ferncourt School in Marrickville, she experienced the area change from a lower working class suburb of the 1940s to a very ethnic-based locality from 1960s onwards. Many Greek and then Turkish immigrants came striaght from rural districts in those countries and settled in Marrickville. Wanda took much trouble showiing these young children Australian ways. I recall meeting - it was February 1969 - up with Wanda and Austral in the city and going out to Marrickville by bus to collect her car which she had left close to Ferncourt. As we walked down the streets there, children would see her coming and run into their house and bring out their mother, pointing to Wanda saying "Teacher! Teacher!" at which the mother bowed - it was like being in a royal progress of some kind. It was obvious she was held in high regard by both students and their parents. A proficient letter writer, Wanda wrote her husband Fred every day whilst he was away in the Services 1939 - 46. Later she wrote once a week to sister Regina - my mother - who lived out at Ungarie in western NSW. Some of the letters survive and they make pleasant reading. it is obvious she could have been a writer if she so wished - her 4 sisters also shared this attribute. The last time i saw her was early January 2007, when blind and aged 95 she attended the funeral of Beth Rektor, daughter of her cousin Olga. After the Service was over, Wanda sat next to me and had a long talk about how lucky Dad was to have married Sylvia my stepmother. It was as if she was a good many years younger than 95. Even though I never had a chance to see her again after this time it is how I like to remember her. Those are my comments about my eldest aunt - I shall miss her greatly. Earl Ewers earl_ewers001@yahoo.com.au

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