MICHAEL R PEARSON pays tribute to his mother, Hazel May Pearson, who passed away last month
HAZEL MAY PEARSON was born on the May 28, 1916 at Camborne Private Hospital in Dubbo, New South Wales, the first child of Thomas and Elise McGuinness. She passed away on the Sept 30 at the age of 93.
At the time of her birth, women and girl children in Australia were second class citizens, similar to many girls today in PNG.
At the age of five, she was required to go to school under the free but compulsory education system until she was 15 years of age. She enjoyed most of school except sewing classes because her teacher would hit the girls on their knuckles with the sewing scissors. She would have liked to become a teacher but at 15 she was required to look after her baby sister and brother.
She then worked at the home helping her parents with house duties and particularly her father in his small grocery store (like a trade store) and doing the accounts for that store.
Her church upbringing was a mixture of Methodist and Salvation Army even though her grandfather was Roman Catholic. In 1955, she was confirmed into the Anglican Church of which her husband was a member.
She married a young man from a nearby village at the age of 19 and became a housewife and raised a family. In 1938, she gave birth to her only daughter but lost her to pneumonia at the age of six weeks. This was before the age of modern antibiotics that save so many children today.
Like so many mothers in 1940, she was left to care for the children while her husband was involved in World War II. One of her husband’s cousins, Bert Goodsell, worked in New Guinea with Burns Philp at Wau.
After the war, she continued the life of a housewife and mother, taking a keen interest in the church and in her four sons’ education. Once her youngest son, Michael, went to school, she became very much involved in the management of Liverpool Boys High School canteen.
Tragedy hit again in 1955 when her second son was hit by a car and died.
In 1961, the family moved to Katoomba to work at the Church Missionary Society Conference Centre, where Don Pearson was the caretaker cook and she assisted as housekeeper and assistant cook.
The family’s involvement in the church grew and stronger links to Papua New Guinea started to develop as missionaries from PNG would tell of their mission work in PNG.
Her worst tragedy came just before Christmas in 1963 when she lost her husband and mother within a few weeks of each other.
As a young widow, she had to make a choice about the welfare of her two youngest sons and particularly her youngest, Michael, as the law required that if she could not care for him, he would have to become a ward of the state.
That would mean giving up her son to be looked after by the state either in an orphanage or with a foster family. She decide to try and care for him herself but this meant that the boys had to find work to help.
Lesley, who was 17, got a weekend job but Michael, being under 15, could not get an official job. She had the job of cleaner on Saturday morning at St Barnabus’ church that Michael helped her do. Also, a neighbour who drove semi-trailers would get him to wash these for $1 pocket money.
Bert Goodsell in New Guinea sent “hand-me-down” clothes for Michael, who was just a little younger than Bert’s own son. Also, to help provide an income, she took in boarders. The second of these boarders, Kevin Ellem, had a brother who worked as a kiap in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and so another stage in the PNG connection developed.
She was always supportive of her sons and encouraged their personal interests and their Christian belief. When they showed interest in being teachers, she saw in them the fulfillment of her dream to be a teacher. To ensure her son was not “on the streets”, she encouraged his interest in railways and trains, an interest she passed on from her father.
The PNG connection grew again when Lesley trained to be a teacher to come to the TP&NG.
In 1967, two important events happened. Firstly she returned to school at Parramatta Business College at the age of 50 to train as a shorthand typist and bookkeeper. The oldies gave the young girls a run for their money. The second event was a very special boarder from New Guinea. For three months, the Member for Tambul, Koitaka Manu MHA (now Sir Koitaka), was her boarder while he was in Australia to learn English at the Australian School of Pacific Administration.
This resulted in young Michael learning Pidgin and also wanting to go to New Guinea as a teacher as well.
In 1968, her son Lesley invited and paid for her and Michael to visit him at Goroka for the Goroka Show and his engagement.
Hazel stayed on until his 21st birthday. This also put the love of travel in her and became the first of many trips to PNG.
After training as a typist, she took up work with the Mothers Union Office in Sydney on a part time basis, a job which she continued for more than 30 years until 2006.
In 1971, her last son came to TP&NG to teach in Bougainville. She then travelled to Bougainville and Goroka and worked as a typist for the Department of Agriculture at Goroka for three months.
She had always taught her sons to respect all people and this was put to the test in 1973 when Michael arrived home and announced his engagement to his future wife, Rita, from Bougainville.
1974 saw her at the wedding in Bougainville and not only in a Western church wedding but also in a traditional Teop wedding. She had her sister-in-law with her and together they went to Rabaul and then to Kundiawa to visit Les and family and Port Moresby where they met her husband’s cousin, Bert, who showed them around a dusty Port Moresby.
1976 saw her again travelling to Papua New Guinea, this time to Daru where Michael and Rita were teaching, to attend the birth of her seventh grandchild. There she met Sir Ebia Olewale.
In 1981, she travelled to Bougainville and spent Christmas with her PNG family in the village and getting to know MPs Michael Ogio, John Momis and Premier Leo Hannett.
In 1986, she travelled to South America where her son Les and his wife Helen were teaching in Punta Arenas. After returning from Chile she flew again to Bougainville, this time to Kieta and Buin where Michael and Rita were teaching.
Again in 1992, she returned this time to Port Moresby for her daughter-in-law, Rita’s graduation from UPNG. Similarly, in 1994, for Michael’s graduation. Each of these stays lasted for the full length of her visa to be with her PNG family.
In 1997, she again returned to PNG for her grandson’s 21st birthday in Port Moresby. 2003 saw her stay at Lae for her 10th grandchild’s wedding. This was her first stay in Lae, apart from two days in 1968, and what a difference she noted.
In 2006, she celebrated her 90th birthday, receiving special greetings from her local member of parliament, the Premier of New South Wales and the Prime Minister of Australia.
In 2007, she made her final trip to PNG for her 7th grandchild’s wedding in Madang. This was her first visit to Madang. On returning to Port Moresby, she was given an audience with Governor-General Grand Chief Sir Paulias Matane. She was given a grand farewell by the Teop and Bougainville community in Port Moresby.
During her 11 travels to PNG, she had visited and stayed in Goroka, Lae, Rabaul, Bougainville (Buka, Teop, Kieta and Buin), Daru, Kundiawa, Port Moresby and Madang.
She was known and loved by the many Papua New Guineans who met her.
She was an active woman who was as much at home helping in the church, the garden, the kitchen and doing the washing and cleaning.
At 90, she asked what she had achieved in her life to which we replied “three good sons and many grand children”. Two of her sons have helped very much in the development of Papua New Guinea as teachers. She has had to give up one son permanently to PNG but she should be proud of what she has done. She has been a lady without whom PNG would be the poorer.
She remained a very independent person, living and caring for herself until she was 93, at which time she had to give up her independence and move to a hostel where she was no longer independent. After falling and going to be bedridden, she passed away on Sept 30.
A woman who gave her sons for PNG. May she rest in peace in paradise.
* Michael R. Pearson is the chairman of the PNG Teaching Service Commission