ON THE journey through life one occasionally meets a person who inspires and motivates you to be greater than you are.
I have had many such mentors, most of them much older and wiser. At one time I had the privilege of working along side a most remarkable woman called Hilda des Arts.
Dr des Arts was in her early 70s when I knew her and she was one of the older members of the Parish Council when I was employed as youth worker.
She may have been much older than I was but her radical and adventurous approach to life often left me gobsmacked.
Hilda had been born to German and English parents during the Anglo-German war.
As a child of two cultures she grew up with a commitment to a shared humanity and community spirit.
Unusually for a woman of her time, Hilda completed a PhD and started a printing company that employed 300 people.
After a time running a pub in Ireland, she retired in 1978 and moved to live in Ipswich Queensland where she threw herself energetically into working in the community.
Having lost a daughter who died in her early 20s, Hilda banded together with a group of local people to establish Ipswich Hospice Care in 1988.
That was only one of her many well documented contributions to developing a rich community life for young and older people in her adopted town.
In the last years of her life and up until her death at age 86 Hilda established SeniorNet, a computer skills learning centre with social interaction for the seniors.
Although she had only limited computer skills, Hilda became known as `Cyber Granny’ throughout Australia as her energy and passion saw the program established in countless communities.
Ipswich Local Member of Parliament Rachel Nolan paid tribute to Hilda in an address to the Queensland Parliament in February 2002.
“She fervently believed that there is a place in society for older people to contribute and that it is up to older people as much as it is up to society more broadly to create that place,” Ms Nolan said.
Hilda once said that she had no desire to be young again, only to be old and well.
I once asked her why in her senior years she was so radical and active when others her age were conservative and slow. Her answer will stay with me until my death.
Hilda said, “Bruce, as you become older you just become more of who you really are.”
She said as they grow older the selfish and complaining people just become more selfish and complain even more. The adventurous and generous people become more adventurous and even more generous.
Thank you Hilda for giving me the courage to grow old with passion and energy.