By Margaret Mitchell, friend and fellow bushwalker.
Jean Blackman passed away on 8 March 2023. We thank Margaret for sharing these memories of Jean with us. Margaret walked with Jean on NPA bushwalks for 30 years. Margaret thanks the staff of the Summit Care Nursing home in Randwick for their care for Jean and their kindness.
Jean gave such happiness to us walkers over many decades.
No walk was beyond her, leading us on through knee-deep water, through bush once up to my shoulders in the Ku-ring-gai area. Her love of the bush and vast knowledge of the flowers was incredible. I learnt so much from her.
Her whistle brought us to attention: 3 sharp retorts meant morning tea or lunch was over, get ready to move and not be left behind!
Jean gave so much, morning tea cakes brought along, all baked by her. Jean was so kind baking special cakes for a walker’s ‘Big Birthday’. Then she made jams and marmalade and gave them to us. Woe betide if you were offered a jar of jam at the start of a long walk and declined saying too heavy to carry!!
Jean even conducted a walk from her lounge room, once, after her hip surgery. The leader that day needed clarification about where to go, somewhere near Waterfall. Jean knew exactly where they were, and gave the route. Incredible.
Jean in the UK had fostered children, whom she loved , whilst their parents, mostly from Nigeria, studied as doctors or nurses. When Jean came to Australia, she worked as a registered nurse at St Vincent’s hospital, Darlinghurst on the eye ward. She used to say how she loved this work.
When she retired early, due to a health issue, she took up walking with her partner Ian, with Walking for Pleasure. Jean soon found she could lead, so began her journey as trips leader. Jean was well known, even by train drivers to whom she offered slices of cake etc. She was a legendary sight at Central station with her big backpack, plastic bag of goodies, and in later years her stick. Head down heading for the platform.
Jean knitted on the train or bus, and in her free time blankets for the charity Wrapped with Love. Jean asked me over the past six years to carry on, as she could not knit due to her stroke. I had not knitted for years, but when Jean asked something, I always tried to do it. I have been busy and used to show her what I was knitting on my train trips, from the south coast to visit her.
Jean received many cards and letters from her walking friends when in Summit Care. She had regular visits from Josie, Liz, Margaret B and myself, Carol and Verne until the health issues made the travel too hard for them. I am sure I may have missed other faithful visitors. I am sure others will miss dear Jean so much, but will remember her with grateful thanks.