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Vale Beverley Cook

Final goodbyes are never easy. This week we farewelled one of our oldest Old Scholars Beverley Cook (nee Hayward) OAM who died on March 19, aged 97. Bev was a Prefect, our 1943 St Anne’s School Captain and notable alumni.

She was a student at St Anne’s from 1940 to 1943, and we are grateful to have her clear recollections of this time recorded. School archivist Tim Gibson said for decades Bev would return to St Anne’s annually on St Anne’s Day sharing her knowledge of her school days – the wartime years.

Past Principal David Baker fondly remembers visiting Bev at her home in Ensay in 2014, sharing a pot of tea, complete with a hand-knitted tea cosy. Bev was guest of honour at the School’s 90th anniversary celebrations where Mr Baker interviewed her on stage in front of the school community.

Bev told us that for four years, each term, she would travel from Ensay to Bairnsdale Station on the Omeo mail car and then by train to Sale for school. While some students were weekly boarders, she would stay for the weekend, as it was too far to go home. She recalled there were about 35 boarders at this time.

“We were like a family, and the younger students were looked after by the older ones. We were up early to help get breakfast going, peeled potatoes for dinner and helped with many other chores.”

As a Prefect Bev would run messages in the town to the butcher, baker and chemist. “The responsibilities did you good. The education wasn’t just learning; it was living. It was a wonderful school.”

Bev lived in Ensay most of her life and went on to be a school teacher influencing many generations in the district. In 2008 she was named in the Queen’s Birthday honours list for service “to the community of East Gippsland through a range of educational, health, sporting and church organisations, and to music”.

Bev could play the piano by ear, which she said was an innate gift. School photographer Lisa Baker remembers Bev at a sit-down luncheon of old scholars many years ago in Lorna Sparrow Hall. “It was a spur-of-the-moment situation, amid the gathering the piano was rolled into the centre of the hall and Bev was encouraged to play. She was coy but notably proud. With a beautiful half smile she gently sat at the piano and then belted out old school tunes. Everyone gathered around and sang with gusto. It was surprising and beautiful.”

In recent years Bev moved to Bupa Aged Care, in Bairnsdale. During the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020, Year 6 students from Gippsland Grammar’s Bairnsdale Campus wrote to Bupa residents. Current student Delara enjoyed connecting with Bev finding much in common, particularly their love of music and animals.

Bev generously shared many recollections throughout the years and said she felt privileged to maintain her connection with Gippsland Grammar. This feeling of privilege is very much reciprocated – we thank you Bev for your amazing contributions to our school. Vale Beverley Josephine Cook.

The funeral was held Monday in Ensay. Gippsland Grammar’s Sarah Guinness spoke at the invitation of the family. Bev is survived by her daughter Meredith Horman (Class of 1976) and son Philip.