Catherine: On behalf of my brother Clinton and my cousin Louise, I would like together with Janet and Robert to tell you about a very special lady who was such a constant, loving and magical figure in our lives.
Fausta was born in Campolattaro, Benevento Italy in 1946, the first child to my Nonna and Nonno Erminia and Angelo. From a very young age Nonna knew that her daughter was very intelligent, very loving and above all very determined.
In 1959 she came to Australia by ship with her mother and 2 brothers to join her father who had come ahead to create a new life for his young family.
Fausta was 12 when she arrived in Australia. She went to Rosary Primary School. She related to us kids that it was a painful time in her life, trying to fit into her new world and struggling with a foreign language. In fact she was so shy that she did not utter even a single word at school for 6 months. I have a feeling she made up for that at home!
She only had 3 years of formal education in Australia and those of you who knew her written and spoken language skills in both English and Italian will realise what a naturally talented, dedicated and intelligent person she was.
She left school at 15 to begin a hairdressing apprenticeship. Keen to help out the family she not only contributed her whole wage to the family budget but had a constant stream of customers at home. In 1966 just 6 years after migrating she won the Hairdressing Apprentice of the Year award in competition with 1,000 others.
I don’t need to tell you that Fausta was a natural beauty and it was no surprise that she spent her 20’s being pursued by a large number of hopeful men. For whatever reason she never said yes and instead made a habit of being a stunning bridesmaid. She remained living at home with her parents, working hard and building a reputation as one of Adelaide’s top hairdressers.
Although she never married or had her own children she had 45 god children. This was one of the highlights of her life and she was very proud to be involved in the lives of so many children. She was Father Christmas and Easter Bunny and she literally needed sacks to hold the presents she regularly distributed. She enjoyed the special relationship she had with each and everyone of her pattini.
I have very strong memories of Aunty Wendy as almost a fairy god mother. In the school holidays she would take us to cafes and restaurants, long before kids went to cafes and restaurants. She took us to circus, theatre shows, to the Starlight Express and Disney on Ice. She bought us clothes we only dreamed of having. She showed us another world, she made us feel special and unconditionally loved. I don’t think us kids could have done anything that Aunty Wendy couldn’t excuse of find some reason for. She always had a perfectly good explanation for our parents as to why we misbehaved. Even though she understood and respected the discipline and financial restrictions our parents had, Aunty Wendy was that special person in our lives.
She was spirited, generous, had a bit of a “cocha-tosta” and was also known to break the rules on occasions. And I would also like to take this opportunity to enlighten many of you as to how the name “Wendy” came about. It is quite simple actually, when she was working for Artura Taverna he said to her “Fausta, no body can say your names so we are going to have to change it” and with no consultation whatsoever he said “you look like a Wendy, so this is what you are going to be known as from now on” and it stuck!
Robert: When Fausta turned 30 she took a monumental step in her life and got her drivers licence. I think Nonno aged 20 years in the process of teaching her to drive but she was determined and it was the beginning of a new and exciting time in her life, giving her a new freedom and independence.
She visited Italy in that same year and stayed for 6 months. She revelled in her new found freedom and reacquainting herself with her family in Italy. I am sure for her whole life she was torn between 2 cultures but she certainly loved her time in Italy.
She would make 2 further trips to Italy, visiting her favourite destination Russia and collecting more Italian based god children along the way. On one of her trips she spent a couple of weeks in the Dolomites in Italy. When showing us the photos she finally revealed the secret that it was in fact a retreat, strictly for nuns only.
She was made an honorary nun so she could attend. That may not surprise many of you.
My cousin Catherine made a lasting impression on Fausta when she returned from her last trip to Italy in 1980. She was only 2 but was so excited to have her back that she ran and hugged her and in the process broke her nose. She never risked going to Italy again!
My cousins and I experienced the full extent of Wendy’s generosity and legacy when we visited Italy. All you had to do was mention Fausta’s name and you were treated like a VIP. She had that kind of effect which transcended culture and language. Her generosity opened doors for us and enabled us to see things we never dreamed of. Outstanding for all of us was staying at the convent in Florence with the Suore Lina and the nuns. We experienced not only one of the most magnificent locations in the world but the kindness of the nuns who welcomed us with open arms because we were Fausta’s family. That memory will stay with me for life. We also visited Campolattaro. When I was in the pizza bar there the local men in the village came asked me about Fausta – some had been at school with her. She must have made a lasting impression on them. Again in the village Faustra had paved the way for us to be treated like royalty, enabling us to experience the real culture of Italy and our true Italian heritage.
Wendy was a prolific photograph taker. When I look at the collection of photos she has taken of my cousins and I and our extended family and the memories they trigger in me I have no doubt that she understood completely the concept of family. She was always actively involved with her extended family and friends and they were a large and important part of her life. She had the same fierce loyalty to her family and friends as she had to us – you wouldn’t want to say anything bad about her relatives or friends they were her life and she loved them all dearly.
She also inherited Nonna’s wonderful story telling ability. Between Nonna and Fausta it was a tag team act that could go on for hours, one enthralling story following another. She was a fantastic historian especially about Italy and the heritage of my great grand parents.
In between her travels Fausta became involved at the Campania Club which began another era in her life. She was both secretary and treasurer of the Campania Club ladies committee and began a distinguished career in convening fundraising events that were organised in a professional and visionary way. She took on many worthy causes and had an unassuming but enormous talent for organisation and thoroughness in anything she took on. She generously gave countless hours of time to her favourite charities.
Not only did she give of her time on a voluntary basis but she donated to literally dozens of charities both here and overseas on a regular basis.
You might get the impression from our story that Wendy was a bit of a soft couch. She was in some ways but was also very principled, had extremely high moral standards and was a great observer of life. I remember comments form her that although she never had children she watched and learned a lot and she in fact had gained quite a bit of information listening to thousands of hairdressing clients over the years and perhaps she had something to offer. She has certainly been a positive influence in my life and has given me great advice and support.
Janet: I would like to recall the cheeky side of Aunty Wendy. I remember Robert being at the salon after school when he was about 12. He was at Rostrevor College which had a very strict uniform standard including absolutely no hair colour. She was putting a red colour in her cousin’s hair and there was a little left over.
She sort of let him use it.
Needless to say they were both up till very late that night getting his hair from vibrant red back to his natural colour in time for school next day.
The salon was a regular crime scene. My mother was well known for having set ages when we were allowed to do things. The age my sister and I were allowed to get our ears pierced was 12. After school one day we stayed with Wendy at the salon in Findon while Mum went to an appointment. Even though I was only 10 at my request she pierced my ears. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Mum wasn’t quite so happy but eventually came around.
The last 9 years of Fausta’s life were the most difficult but also the most satisfying for her in many ways.
In 1995 she was diagnosed with cancer, had surgery and began a journey that would cause her great pain but also lead her to people and places that without doubt brought her great joy.
She stopped fulltime work after her first surgery but became very involved in volunteer and pastoral care work. She became deeply involved in her beloved “Prayer Group” and the group members and their families gave her direction and inspiration in the hard times she endured.
She deepened her relationship with the Church and God, attended several national conferences and found great solace and satisfaction in her prayer life and her religious readings.
In 1998 her father had a stroke and she together with Nonna and her brothers looked after Nonno in his nursing home with unfailing love and loyalty. She was absolutely devoted to her Dad and he rarely spend a waking hour alone during nearly 2 years in the nursing home. After Noon died in 2000 she was devoted companion to her mother.
She had recurrences of the cancer and over the years was treated with radiotherapy, hormone treatments and chemotherapy. During all this she remained a loyal friend, dedicated to the Church and charities and always thinking of others before herself.
A further diagnosis was made of spread of the cancer and finally 8 weeks ago the diagnosis of multiple brain tumours. When it was obvious she was in her last days she found a gentle peace. She told us she with great clarity and serenity that she was accepting of her fate and ready for what was ahead.
I am very proud to have been part of Fausta’s life. She wanted this mass and funeral not to be a sad occasion but a celebration of her life. We have tried to paint a picture of you of the beautiful and generous person we know as Aunty Wendy and we know that you have your own beautiful memories of her as well, ones that you can keep I your heart forever just as I am certain Fausta will do of you.
On behalf of Fausta and family, we thank you for being here today and thank everyone who has so generously supported her and our family throughout her illness.