From the Principal
Quite understandably, the thoughts of most people at present are dominated by the coronavirus and the many challenges and issues associated with daily life at this time. Whilst I acknowledge this, there was some other news I received earlier this week that I wish to make the focus of this piece.
On Tuesday morning, staff at the Junior School received the sad news that their friend and colleague, Leeanne Hawke, had died. Leeanne was a member of the staff at Norwood for nearly 20 years and was much loved by many in our community. She retired last year after her diagnosis with cancer.
I asked her closest friends for their thoughts on Leeanne and they provided me with this, which I share here. My thanks go to Carolyne Carey and Lyn Halinkovic.
Leeanne came to Saint Ignatius’ College in 2000 and joined the Adaptive Education team as an Education Support Officer. She immediately became an invaluable member of the team as she worked supporting the students and in an administrative capacity. Leeanne’s relationship with the students was marvellous and they and their parents knew how much she cared for them. She often went beyond her job description as she was very capable and set up extra resources for the students to help them with their learning. Her ability to take on challenging tasks was incredible and every member of the Adaptive Education team over the years knew that if we asked Leeanne, she would be able to do it as she was so skilled and highly efficient. We relied on her heavily and she knew the workings of the department in great depth and could answer any question that was put to her. Her beautiful handwriting was admired by all visitors to our staff room and she always had time to write the names on the certificates and the name tags for the students as they started their journey at Ignatius. Leeanne’s warm, caring nature led her to being friends with everyone and she always had time to listen.
On 7 September 2018 Leeanne had a routine chest X-ray that showed that she had cancer in her rib cage. The next days were an exhausting round of tests to discover the primary cancer, which was very rare, very aggressive, and buried deep in the chest wall. Unfortunately, despite its small size, it had already wreaked havoc and had invaded every bone in her body except for one bone in her wrist. Leeanne made the decision to take leave to fight this battle that she knew would be incredibly challenging. Even when she was saying her goodbyes to us, she was so strong and calm and had a positive attitude. She maintained that attitude throughout her fight as the cancer continued to spread, and greeted each stage as being “just another part of the journey”. Her faith meant a great deal to her and helped to sustain her, as did her incredibly supportive family and church community.
Leeanne is survived by her husband, Mark, and her two sons and their wives, Matt, Bek, Tim, and Amy. She was also a grandmother to Tim and Amy’s three sons and was able to hold the youngest one, Arthur, after his birth in early March. We will miss this beautiful woman enormously.
I heard this week that one emotion we’re all sharing at the moment is a form of grief. It may be an obvious grief such as the one we feel at Leeanne’s death or, more widely, a type of grief for all the things we’ve currently lost from our lives.
In comforting others in times of grief, we usually reach out and embrace them, but current requirements prevent us from this most basic of human responses.
This is another example of why now, more than ever, our care for each other, reflected in compassion, love, and even forgiveness, is essential to the wellbeing of all.
Vale Leeanne Hawke.
Mr Peter Coffey