Disclaimer: If you haven’t already read the first part to this story, “Alma turns 100”, take a quick look here before reading this follow up article.
It was Friday August 7, 2020 as Phil was finishing up his last day of work at the State Coroner’s office in his role as a psychologist, when his wife sent him a text: “How old would your aunty Alma be if she were alive?” It was a quick calculation for Phil as he remembered she was born in 1920, so he simply responded: “100”. The response from his wife was one that would begin to unravel 50 year-old questions that have gone unanswered: “I think I’ve found your aunty.”
In August 2020, St Bart’s ran a story in its Community e-newsletter celebrating one of its Home Care clients, Alma, turning 100. That e-newsletter serendipitously landed in the inbox of Phil’s wife who works with the Anglican Church.
“I’ve never met Alma since she became separated from the family when I was young, so it was always a bit of a mystery to me as to where she was and what might have happened to her,” said Phil. “One of my cousins and I mounted a concerted effort to try to track her down about 25 years ago, but all we knew was her maiden name and her first married name, which didn’t bring anything up in our searches. We assumed she may have remarried and passed away.”
When his wife brought the article home later that day, Phil could instantly tell it was his aunty Alma because of the family resemblance, particularly to her own mother.
Jumping into action, he handwrote a letter to Alma and dropped it, along with some old family photos, to Joe’s Bakery, which the article mentioned was Alma’s local. Later that afternoon, he received a phone call from Alma’s friend, Sophie, and arrangements were made to meet with Alma the following week.
Having endured some mental health challenges in her early life, Alma became estranged from her family 50 years ago. However, since the family reunion we are now privileged to know a little bit more about her life.
Alma’s mother and father were married in 1919 and she was born the following year. The eldest of six siblings, she was known for her talent for dressmaking and was very glamorous in her early years, which in part explains the “Miss West Perth” moniker she’s affectionately been given in her many years living in the suburb. Alma joined the Airforce in the early 40’s and went to train in Victoria before marrying her first husband in Narrogin in 1949. As children, Alma and all of her siblings were given nicknames by their father.
“I knew all of her sibling’s nicknames but I didn’t know hers, so on our first meeting I asked what it was,” Phil said. “Without any hesitation she responded with “Cinders”. Sure enough, one of my other cousins recalled that she was in fact given that name by her father because as a child she didn’t like cleaning out the fireplace, and so “Cinders” stuck!”
Since her first reunion with her family, Alma has met a number of nephews, nieces and extended family, who are all so happy to see she’s alive and well. One nephew, Howard, is an extremely talented portrait artist and has created a stunning portrait of Alma, which now hangs proudly at Joe’s Bakery.
“What’s become apparent through all of this is that both Sophie and Joe have done a lot to contribute to Alma’s quality of life and her survival,” Phil said. “It’s a remarkable story of survival if nothing else, and we all feel blessed to have her.”