The march of advancing years never dimmed Edna Knowlman’s zest for life.
At age 88, following an ordination at St Saviour’s Cathedral, she could be seen “bopping away” to multicultural music brought in for the occasion.
“It’s one of my most cherished memories,” daughter Kerrie said this week.
Her mother, the much loved matriarch of the famous local Knowlman family which owned Goulburn’s long running landmark department store, passed away last Friday. She was ninety-five.
Kerrie described it as the end of an era.
Mrs Knowlman was born Edna Offley in Crookwell, the eldest of three daughters to Laurie and Vera Offley. But she grew up on the family’s property, ‘Hilltop’ at Myrtleville, and attended the little school nearby. On the farm she would help her grandfather in the orchard, driving the horse cart while he sprayed the fruit.
Following her education she trained as a triple certificate nurse in Sydney and worked at several hospitals, including Crown Street and North Sydney before coming back to Goulburn as a staff sister. The young Edna was taken by John Knowlman when he came to the x-ray department one day after he injured himself in a cricket game.
It was the start of a happy and enduring relationship. The couple was married at Taralga’s Saint Luke’s Church in 1948 and later had two children, Kerrie and Chris.
John had been working at the family business, established in 1888, and popularly known as ‘The right store on the wrong corner.’ He eventually became manager. Mrs Knowlman became chairman of the board following his death, only retiring at age 83 when the family companies were wound up.
“This was a country woman who spent her younger years on the farm but when it was necessary, she stepped up to the plate,” Kerrie said.
This quality typified her mother, who like her husband, embraced the Knowlman’s staff as family.
Kerrie said her father was known as “the family chief” but it referred to the staff, generations of whom worked for the store.
Mrs Knowlman was devastated in 1999 when the building, since vacated, was burnt down by arsonists. The city went into mourning for an old favourite, full of fond memories. Two teenagers were subsequently charged over the blaze.
John died in 1974, aged just fifty-four. Kerrie said her mother was asked several times why she never remarried and replied: “When you have had the best, why settle for less?”
But her zest for life continued, reflected in her expansive Goldsmith Street home’s garden. She won the Lilac Time garden competition many times, stopping only at age 73 to “give someone else a go.”
At their home the couple hosted many annual Legacy barbecues, the organisation of which he was a member. Mrs Knowlman was also attached to Legacy, being a foundation member of Torchbearers.
She joined Goulburn Garden Club in 1966 and was made a life member in 1998. Mrs Knowlman enjoyed many trips with the club and was ever ready to help and advise others on their gardens. For 55 years she arranged the altar flowers at St Saviour’s Cathedral, her beloved church.
Mrs Knowlman was a foundation member of St Saviour’s Evening Group and coordinated the flower ministry for 40 years.
It was only at age 90 she stopped mowing her lawn and age 93 when she gave up driving.
Kerrie said her mother had a “well hidden sense of mischief,” which she didn’t often reveal.
She involved her daughter in many church, garden and other activities but also doted on her grandchildren. Two years ago she was thrilled to welcome her first great grandchild, Georgina.
Her spirit remained strong but deteriorating health saw her enter Gill Waminda Aged Care facility last July. Following a “gradual decline” she passed away there last Friday. Kerrie described her as a very special lady who derived great pleasure from helping others and joy from the smaller things in life.
“...Mum and I were friends too and I treasure that,” she said.
Mrs Knowlman is survived by Kerrie, son Chris, grandchildren Nic, Jen, Alex, Tracy, Hannah and Adam and great grandchild Georgina. Her sisters Doris and Audrey predeceased her. Her funeral service will be held on Friday at 2pm at Saint Saviour’s Cathedral. Donations to the Sowerby Trust, in lieu of flowers, are requested.