Pat Fairall might have broken the glass ceiling as Goulburn's first female mayor but it was never a personal bragging point.
As former councillor Margaret O'Neill recalled this week, the fact was never mentioned as Mayor Fairall 'just got on with the job.'
"She worked very hard as mayor...and was very involved in getting industry to town and in regional development," she said.
"Her husband, Roger, was very dedicated to her and was always there for her. He was her backbone."
Tributes have flowed for Patricia Anne Fairall, who died at Warrigal Aged Care facility on February 4, aged seventy-seven.
Son, Jon, recalled that in the 1983 Goulburn City Council election lead-up, his mother letterbox dropped hundreds of printed leaflets as part of her election campaign.
"It was a bit of an adventure," he said.
"When she became mayor (from 1991 to 1993) the newspaper headline was 'Mum's the mayor.' As children we all knew Mum had an important job. She was the first female mayor and we were very proud of that."
Mrs Fairall, Mrs O'Neill and Leone Morgan were all elected in 1983. Mrs O'Neill said it was the first time three women formed part of the 12-member council.
Tony Lamarra was a councillor at the time and served as mayor from 1985 to 1991. Mrs Fairall served as his deputy mayor in the late 1980s.
"Give her a job and she would do it well. Pat was a school teacher so she had the expertise and the experience. Everyone respected her and I had so much confidence in her," Mr Lamarra said.
"She was very honest and whatever she did was in the community's interests."
Mrs Fairall started the children's council, advocated for a very fast train, international airport in Goulburn, the city's PCYC, seat belt safety, helped start the city's Relay for Life and served on numerous committees, including regional development, Tidy Towns, Canberra regional group of councils and more.
She was also mayor when the city was bypassed in 1991. At the time, she reflected it would "return Goulburn to its country lifestyle."
Former Goulburn Post journalist, Chris Gordon, reflected on the times Cr Fairall dropped into the newspaper office.
"Pat was always up for a chat... She was very open, engaging and friendly and had a great sense of humour," he said.
"She was also a very articulate and well-versed person without being at all condescending. From my observations, Pat was a peacemaker who didn't drive a personal agenda. She provided a very professional image to the council and I'd describe her as one of the very best councillors or mayors Goulburn has had in my lifetime."
Her friend of 50 years, Dot Keegan, remembered the excitement as numbers rolled in for the 1983 election. Later, she often accompanied her to functions. Mrs Keegan said Pat promoted the city's history and attractions at every opportunity and ensured people's achievements were properly recognised.
"She was a very gregarious and outgoing person," she said.
"Pat was never afraid to speak her mind, take a stand and fight for something she thought was right."
A teaching life
Her upbringing forged her character. Born in 1947 in New Zealand, she was the eldest child of James Middleton Law, a member of the merchant navy, and Stella Wheatley. Sister, Janet, came along four years later.
The girls grew up in Goulburn and Pat later attended Our Lady of Mercy College. She was among the hundreds of students who enrolled for a week at Goulburn High School during the Catholic school strike in 1962, a fact she often later spoke about.
Pat opted for teachers college at Wagga and took up her first posting at Bowning, near Yass. Roger Fairall, a mechanic from Goulburn, would drive over to see her. She soon transferred to Goulburn Public School where Keith Cole was principal.
Roger and Pat married in 1968 and reared their family, Stephanie, Jon and Sue.
"It was a happy house...There were always a lot of books in the house growing up and Mum shaped our intellect," John said.
"Mum was a big news watcher...and she and Dad loved good humour and satire...There were always a lot of laughs in the house."
Like many other mothers of the time, Mrs Fairall went back to work. Over more than 50 years she taught at numerous local schools including Wollondilly, the Crescent School, Goulburn North, Goulburn High, Marian College and Trinity Catholic College. As one of her students, Jon said his mother was a "relatable" teacher who was firm but fair.
Mrs Keegan also worked at Goulburn North as an administration manager.
"She loved the ability to make a difference in the life of a child,"she said.
"We'd go places and students would remember her and what she did for them."
All the while, Mrs Fairall was vitally involved in the community, including Quota, Soroptimists and Rostrum, where she helped develop young public speakers. She also enjoyed cryptic crosswords, reading, wordplay and an active social life with her many friends,
Mrs Fairall retired from teaching in 2013, in part due to a Parkinson's Disease diagnosis.
Jon said his mother owned the condition and would always say: "I'm still here."
She joined the Goulburn Parkinson's Support group and continued her advocacy. In a 2016 letter to The Goulburn Post she railed against closure of Bourke Street Health Service's hydrotherapy pool.
"I am appalled and amazed at the decision to close the facility," Mrs Fairall wrote.
"Appalled because it is a facility for which the community lobbied hard and amazed at the effrontery of those who use weasel words to justify such a rash, ill-conceived idea."
Jon thanked her friends who stood by his mother during her illness. In mid-2023 Pat moved to Warrigal Care but according to Mrs Keegan, remained "resolute that Parkinson's wasn't going to defeat her."
"We had a wonderful friendship and supported each other in whatever we did," she said.
"I will remember her as a fierce no nonsense lady."
Another longtime friend, Helen Rainger, said Pat had "a sharp mind, a great wit, lively presence, generous spirit and positive outlook."
"It was a privilege to be her friend," she said.
Her children, who have all pursued professional careers, were grateful for her influence.
"I feel there's a lot of her in me," John said.
"She encouraged me to read. We all went to university and she encouraged us to live our lives.
"We are proud of what she achieved and respectful of the fact she wanted to be more than a homemaker. We will miss her."
Mrs Fairall is also survived by husband, Roger, her children, their partners and two grandchildren. She is predeceased by her sister, Janet.
Prayers of Christian burial will be held at Sts Peter and Paul's Cathedral at 2pm on Tuesday, February 13, followed by private interment.