Remembering Valda Irene Phillips (1921-2023)

My paternal grandma passed away a few days ago and since then I’ve been thinking about her life and my memories of her.

Valda Winter was the middle of five children born to Otto and Irene Winter, and she grew up in the suburbs of Adelaide. Her father was a Finnish seaman, who ended up in South Australia, and her mum was of English descent.

She was 101, and was very with it and independant until about the age 97 or so. I mean, she’s this tiny (and by tiny, I mean less than 5 foot something) lady, living in her own unit at that age! Remarkable eh!

But sadly there’s a lot that I didn’t (and probably won’t) know about my grandma. I did give her a copy of the “The Book of Myself: A Do-it-Yourself Autobiography in 201 Questions” which is a book that asks questions, and has plenty of room for answers to be written in. She said she would fill in for me, but sadly when we found it on her shelf, it was never written in. So maybe in retrospect, interviewing her directly would possibly have been a better option, as so many memories and stories have now been lost with her passing. And she was the last of that generation, and my last grandparent.

Unfortunately this side of the family weren’t really keepers of much at all, other than photos from more recent eras. So while grandma would have seen so many changes in life, and world events throughout her 101 years … we don’t have any written record of her thoughts on any of it.

Here’s just a few key events that happened during her lifetime:
1929 The Depression hit Australia
1932 Opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
1940 Pencillin was developed by Howard Florey and a team of scientists
1942 Japan bombs Darwin
1949 Australian citizenship introduced
1950 Korean War
1954 Queen Elizabeth II visits Australia
1956 Polio vaccine ends epidemic in Australia
1956 Television is launched in Australia
1958 Australia’s first skyscraper built
1966 Decimal currency introduced to NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT
1969 Man walks on the moon for the first time
1971 Daylight Saving introduced
1973 Sydney Opera House opens
1974 Cyclone Tracy flattens Darwin
1979 Australian women win the right to maternity leave
1982 Commonwealth Games held in Brisbane
1983 Ash Wednesday devastate large parts of South Australia and Victoria
the list could go on and on!!

I remember lots of wider-family get-togethers when I was younger. I remember their house at Cudlee Creek, and the sheds that got burnt in Ash Wednesday. I remember the house she and grandpa moved to when they moved to the suburbs, and their love of caravaning with friends particularly for golf trips. I remember that she had a penfriend in England for 60 or so years. I remember her passion for her Finnish heritage, as well as anything to do with the Royal family, particularly Queen Elizabeth II. Her display cabinet with royal knick-knacks was quite the collection. I remember staying with them for a week when I did work experience, so I could catch the bus into the city and back each day. I remember that back in her youth she was a dressmaker for Madam Jeanne’s bridal shop, and right thoughout the decades, she caught up the ‘the girls’ from there once a year, which was always a highlight for her. I remember that Christmas time was a big thing for her, and her house was filled with cards, so I have no doubt that she was a big card sender too.

And I remember the afternoons I went to her place to scan old photos.

Anyway below are a selection of photos from her life …

Valda Winter with her three sisters, c.1928 Back L-R: Mavis and Valda Front: Betty and Joyce
Valda Winter with her three sisters, c.1928
Back L-R: Mavis and Valda
Front: Betty and Joyce
Valda Winter & her sisters, c.1931
Valda Winter (on far right) & her sisters, c1932
at the beach Joyce Winter, friend Joan & Valda Winter c1936
at the beach
Joyce Winter, friend Joan & Valda Winter c1936
Thebarton Methodist Basketball Team, c.1937
Thebarton Methodist Basketball Team, c1937
She’s the one on the end on the right
Valda Winter, c1940
Valda Winter, c1940
Valda Winter, c.1941
Valda Winter, c.1942
Ron and Valda on his motorbike, c.1940s
Valda's wedding, 1944
Valda’s wedding, 1944
Ron and Valda, with children Alan, Raelene and Lynette, 1952
Ron and Valda Phillips, 1971
Ron and Valda’s house and Cudlee Creek and the burnt out sheds from Ash Wednesday, 1983
their Golden Wedding Anniversary, 2004
Valda Phillips, 2007
here’s me with my grandma on her 95th birthday, 2016

Rest in peace grandma, and I hope you’re enjoying catching up with everyone again.

6 Responses to “Remembering Valda Irene Phillips (1921-2023)”

  1. Sharon says:

    My thoughts are with you Alona.
    You have some great memories and it is great that you have shared them so family can look back on in perpetuity.
    Looking at the photos, I could have been looking at photos of my grandparents as the poses are so similar.
    And what a beautiful and regal old house that she lived in. I am glad that the fire spared it.

  2. Lyn Hudson-Williamson says:

    My deepest condolences to you Alona and the rest of the Phillip’s family.

  3. Celia Lewis says:

    So sorry for your loss, Alona.
    You’ll have wonderful memories and some regret re being without all those details of her long life… It’s a big loss. Lovely photos of your grandparents – she was definitely a bit of a thing – my mom and grandma were similarly barely 5′(while I’m 5’8). I wonder if other cousins might have asked her more questions about how she managed through those life events -? All the best.

  4. Bengt Winter says:

    We are so sorry to hear about your loss. For us your grandmother will always remain as a heavenly bridge between Australia and Finland.
    Bengt and Lotta

  5. Betty Rehn says:

    So lovely to see the photos which bring so many memories back Ron and Valda on the motor bike remind me of Mum and Dad on the bike George and Nellie McGuire You have capture so much in your story Sorry I cant be with you Tuesday But will be Thinking of you all xxxxxxBetty Rehn xxxx

  6. Di says:

    I am so sorry to hear this. Please pass on best wishes to your dad on behalf of my brother, and of course yourself. Fabulous age for your grandmother.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *