9-8-1928 – 23-8-2012
A tribute by Cyprian Fernandes
Julie Coelho was born in Nairobi and attended the Dr. Ribeiro Goan School in Parklands.
She had three brothers: Cassie, Johnny, Valentine and, Irene, (married Oscar D’Souza) was her only sister
Besides her regular job as an administrative assistant with C.J. Valentine, she worked at the Nairobi Races with Ben every weekend
Julie loved people, life and everything to do with it. She and Ben had many friends - old and young alike and were always the centre of attraction at any event. Here are some of the comments we've had these past few days:
Braz Menezes: "Ben and Julie were an institution to us growing up"
Tina de Mello: "Julie was an icon of fashion, laughter and happiness to many of us in our generation"
Pam Gonsalves: "They were lovely role models for us growing up. Their tricky dance steps and Ben's cow cow boogie/singing we admired and maybe tried to copy many a time!"
A VERY SPECIAL NOTE FROM A VERY SPECIAL SISTER-IN-LAW: Cicely Noronha: We had gone to Mombasa one Easter weekend and I can so clearly remember Julie insisting on dragging me across the busy Kilindini road just so she could introduce me to her first cousin Jonas, whom she felt was the man for me!! I wasn't so sure at the time, but I have to thank Julie for 46 happy years!
The year was 1960 in Nairobi, Kenya. It was November, that special month full of anticipation of the coming Christmas season. November was always a beautiful kind of month, not too hot, not too cold and not too wet. What made it special were the soft temperate breezes that kissed most of the country. There she was, Julie. She wore elbow-length black lace gloves, a midnight blue evening gown and something, perhaps a discreet tiara in her hair if not there was big red flower. She was the picture of elegant womanhood, nay she was beautiful. She lit up the Nairobi Goan Institute hall with that unbelievable smile. She was attempting to do the twist at the Legion of Mary dance but she was being interrupted regularly by a posse of well- wishers. Her partner, husband Ben, was more animated, from time to time telling various friends: Be careful, people will talk. And everyone burst into fits of laughter. The laughter continued unabated as Ben offered several friends a free blood test.
Meanwhile, after patiently listening to Ben’s antics, she told him, interspersed with that infectious laugh of hers: See now Ben, people are looking at you come on, take it easy . And he made those pretend “I am angry with you eyes” (which quickly exploded into the naughtiest grin you ever saw) and said: Do, Do, leave it, it is just some harmless fun. The thing about Ben was that you just had to look at him and you would crack up laughing because he was always saying something or doing something that burst the dams of your laughter. Julie was the serene, pretty, charming assistant to magician Ben.
She gave up, but unfrustrated. That night there would be a thousand more laughs and a thousand more jokes. I am sure that some of you were at the GI, the RI or Goan Gymkhana. Julie always made us all happy and today even as we celebrate her life, we are happy that we have been able to play some small part in such a beautiful person’s life because as we celebrate Julie’s wonderful life, we celebrate ours to. As Julie’s generation and my generation bid farewell to life on earth, our friends and relations will also be saying farewell to a special way of life. Julie’s generation (and the generations before) were the lucky ones because they saw most of the best of life in colonial Kenya and a little of sadness as we were pushed out by the changing political winds. Thus in a couple of decades the unique East African Goan tribe will be no more. There is no room for regret because that was a time for Kenya and more recently it has been a time for Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, UK or Europe.
For Ben and Julie it was the bestest of times. They attracted young people like bees to a honeycomb. They were always surrounded by young people. Sport, (cricket, hockey, badminton, table tennis, snooker, billiards) the club, the church, parties, picnics, sports visits, the racecourse, holidays in Mombasa, Malindi, fishing and much more. From a very early age, Julie played badminton, table tennis and won many trophies at the old RGI and hockey. She would love sport for the rest of her life. And they share all this with Andy and Gilli. They had one other special friend in their life: Oditi, cook and general help, he was a very special kind of person who loved the Pereiras as his own. With marriage came two big extended family clans: Julie’s folks the Coelhos and Ben’s folks the Pereiras. These two very talented and wonderful families have spread even more with grandchildren. Julie was especially close to her late sister Irene and Ben’s sisters Clarice, Ivy, Cicely and Susan. Ben’s brother Rom and his family were also among her many favourites.
The Jokers, an eclectic group of young people, usually ended up at Ben and Julies after the dance for a special breakfast, sorportel on toast at Christmas when several of their neighbours would be without their daily milk supply. Most of these guys and I spent around 14 years of our life with Ben and Julie in Kenya. We did everything together. We were all a bunch of nuts and it took a special kind of a lady to put up with our antics. Can’t ever remember a cross word. Julie was the woman for every time and every place. She was just at home in Eastleigh, Pangani, South C, South B, Nairobi West, or High Ridge, Kileleshwa , Muthaiga or any of the more expensive suburbs.
So what made our Julie so special. For one thing she did not have a negative bone in her body. How could she with that wonderful, loving smile and two ready arms for family and anyone who needed help. Just ask her adoring daughters in law and her grandchildren. Perhaps it comes from the unconditional love those two scallywags, Gilli and Andy gave their mother. Like their dad before them, they teased her, joked with her, made laugh and loved her with a passion reserved for a family who been through the mill of good and hard times and has come through because together they are a powerful but unassuming family. We had some great times, great laughs, and shared a life that we were always proud of.
And so to Australia, Ben and Julie’s resting place. A friend helped the Pereiras get to Australia when they were in their greatest peril in Uganda, just as Idi Amin was throwing out all the Asians. Australia came as a breath of fresh air. It was a happy time again. Ben and Julie were soon at work and Gil and Andy settled well at school and were soon having their friends over. These friends gave Ben and Julie a lot of pride and happiness. Even greater happiness lay in the friends they made at church. Church is very big in every Goan Catholic heart. Julie loved working for the church and St Vincent de Paul. This was her sanctuary and it brought her great comfort. And then of course there were some old friends from Kenya and new friends from all over Australia. However, it was the friends in Melbourne who were soon to play a truly great role in Julie’s life.
When we lost Ben, Julie put on her usual brave face and with a heavy heart appeared to the public to suffer her loss with great dignity. But it was a truly great love story and greater the love, the harder it is to come to terms with the loss. Gil and Cathy, Andy and Caroline took on the task of rescuing Julie. She could not stay in the house with all those memories of Ben and moved in with Andy and Carolyn. It took nine months of nurturing and caring by the two boys and their families to get to the point where Julie was able to move out on her own. Cathy and Carolyn are two very special people. They come from caring, nurturing, kindly Australian families and in Julie’s toughest hour they gave of themselves unflinchingly. They were Julie’s special angels. And it was the friends from church and the Goan community who helped the boys help their mother to achieve some semblance of normality. Then of course there was the strength she drew from her church. Her faith was unshakeable and as the months passed she seemed blessed by her faith and the love of her God. The smile was always there but now there was new energy in her laughter, a little like those old days. She travelled a little but the boys and their families were never too far away.
What really gave Julie a new lease on life were the grandchildren: Ben, Sam, Adam, Dan and Stephanie. These guys showered their gran with a love that filled her heart with joy and renewed her will to live.
That is why I say that in farewelling our dearest friend, we celebrate the life we shared with Julie. Julie lit up the hearts and minds of the hundreds of people she met. We were the lucky ones for having met and known Julie. As Ben would say, stop it Cippy, people will talk.
Our sincere condolences to Andy and Caroline, Gil and Cathy and to their children and to the extended families of the Pereiras and the Coelhos. Goodbye Julie. Memories of you fill my heart with a million smiles.
I would like to thank Skip for his kind words about Mum.
I would like to talk about mum’s other qualities which as a son I will always remember as she was not only the other half of the famous Pereira duo but an Individual in her own right.
She Loved to travel: When she was about 37 she organized her Overseas Tour to Europe visiting Rome Paris Venice etc. on her own, which back then was unheard of and with numerous trips with and without Dad over the years* she was in her element. I was with her on her last one in 2010 when she attended her nephew’s wedding in Perth and she savoured every moment of it.She was a Dance Teacher: Back in Nairobi everyone wanted to emulate the Pereira’s steps as she was so patient, all the males at the club queued up for lessons.
She was a Matchmaker: The most famous being when She hitched My Dads sister Cicely to her Cousin Jonas and after 46 years are still together.She was a Fashion Diva: In her heyday till recently, instilling the value to Andy & Myself that you always dressed Up not Down & always believed in looking fine
She was a Role Model: In cahoots with Dad as I have found out from many a couple around the Globe over the last week who knew Ben & Julie that they always wanted to be like them in every wayThe Standout for me though was her courage & determination when we arrived in Australia By incorporating her Work Life, Family & Social obligations into one, and working hard to succeed in all of them which she did, as she was the glue for the Pereira Family back then. A number of times over the 35+ Years Mum demonstrated these Qualities and proved to herself and us boys that anything was possible if you work hard enough at it.
A big hurdle that she had to deal with was the passing of Dad as mentioned. She landed at Greenwood Avenue Ringwood with the goal ahead to be independent again and slowly but surely she accomplished this.
I remember how proud we all were when Mum announced she had walked to Eastland organized her grocery shop and paid her first set of bills.
She also involved herself with Our Ladies Parish, not only as a parishioner at the Church but also a member of the Evergreen Club that was based there, where she met new friends and went on many weekend and Day outings. Her other hobbies included table-tennis and water aerobics. She also made dinner for the family every Sunday and Entertained whenever she could, not forgetting the Dances or Parties she just had to be at.
She was so busy the family had to make an appointment to see her because of her hectic social schedule.
All this would not have been possible without the many good friends some of whom are here today.
Mum made a difference to lot of people’s lives in knowing her. We can be comforted in the thought she is in good company now with Dad and other family and friends. She will always be in our hearts.
When I was little I just assumed that everyone had a nana like me. It wasn’t until I was a teenager did I realise how fortunate Daniel and I were to have 2 Nana’s.
I remember spending a lot of time with nana when I was younger. I think after poppy passed away I even became her date to social events.
Poppy used to take me in the car to pick nana up from the station after she finished work sometimes and I have always remembered hiding in the back seat and yelling BOO Nana! I would then laugh so hard when she pretended to be so frightened and she would call out to her mommy. She always played along no matter what her day was like.
I know because she always told me that it was her job as our nana to spoil us. She tried so hard to give us everything we wanted. When I was maybe 10 she gave me coffee when I was curious about what she was drinking. She gave me a shandy before I even knew what was in a shandy. She knew all our favourite dishes and would make them for us on Sunday nights when we all had dinner together.
Having Nana live so close to my high school allowed me to spend even more time with her. Daniel and I would meet at nana’s house after school, while waiting to be picked up we would drink all her lemonade and try and change the TV channel when she wasn’t looking. I would also pop in sometimes with friends on the way to Eastland they loved coming over to Nanas house because it was so different to their nanas houses. And when I got an after school job I would go to nanas first to get changed have a coffee and watch the “bold and the beautiful” with her. Nana had a way of making me feel like she had been waiting all day to see me and as I left her day was complete.
When I got my license and my own car occasionally I used to take nana to run some errands at Eastland and after spending just an hour there I would walk out having a new group of contacts and friends – a pharmacist, a barista, a bank teller and a butcher all of whom Nana would proudly announce “this is my granddaughter Stephanie”.
I will miss her giggle I will miss her voice I will miss her pointy finger and I will miss making her laugh.
Nana. Daniel, Ben, Sam, Adam and I will carry our memories of you in our hearts forever and when we speak of you we will speak with love, pride and gratitude for all the wonderful moments we shared with you.
Jambo it's the only word I learnt in Swahili.
Romeo and Juliet, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Bonnie and Clyde, Agent 86 and 99, Homer and Marg, Benjamin Vincent Francis and Juliet Pereira, a match made in heaven. Whilst they were not movie stars, in our eyes they were superstars and I'm sure those of you that were touched by them would agree actually looking at the photo at the back, mum was beautiful
Some 38 years ago they made the biggest sacrifice for Gil and I by leaving the deep dark jungles of Africa where the lions and elephants roamed free. We arrived in the lucky land of Oz where we eventually ended up in the leafy suburbs of Ringwood this was only made possible by Uncle Karl and Aunty Loretta
We eventually moved in to a two bedroom unit with very little personal belongings however we did have two elephant feet
Dad had an incredible talent in making friends with anyone and everyone. Dad would walk down the street and come home with five new friends for lunch, dinner or just drinks.For mum she found it a little harder where she missed her family and friends however she was totally committed to making it work for Gil and I
Mum was a fashion queen. I remember at the tender age of 5 we had purple tailored suits made for us and we always were the best dressed boys on the block
I recall walking to Our Lady's Parish one day with the family, we didn't have a car at the time. It was around the mid seventies, fashion in Australia was staggers jeans, blue miller shirts, blue connie jackets. There we were dressed in pastel flares, high heel shoes and that's what I was wearing. The said “look out The Jackson Five have arrived”. Mum was never fazed
The happiest moment for mum was when they bought our home at 5 Braimton Court. She was so proud of the 3 bedroom split level AV Jennings home with orange shag pile carpet orange light fittings and that bright green kitchen
She also had us doing all the housework. Where was Oditti?
Mum was a beautiful cook and she loved sitting at the table eating, drinking and laughing, affectionately known as giggles The parties we had during those wonderful years are still talked about, which also included all our friends
Mum was also very strong minded (stubborn) really if mum wanted to go left we all went left. In the last 3 months she was not well Carolyn would go and visit and try and feed her as mum stopped eating she would get those eyes and a firm No.
Mum has been on a long journey and some 20 years and 8 months ago her beloved Ben passed away. She now has finally reached her destination
Dad told me two important things that I'm sure you have heard before
You are dealt the cards, play the hand. Well mum certainly did that, she was a proud Aussie, she never ever complained about her journey to Australia, she loved everything about Australia especially the tennis. She was very vocal supporting Pat Cash, Pat Rafter and any Australian Olympian, not to mention those Aussie Soaps! Mum adored Melbourne
The other was live life to it's fullest and when I look at all of you here today who have come to celebrate her life she did exactly that
Kwaheri Mum we love you
Thank you Skip for sharing Ben and Julie’s beautiful life in Nairobi with us.
If Nana wasn’t taking us to Mcdonalds and the Movies, she would be cooking up a feast and laughing with us boys, we always had fun at Nanas, playing tricks on her, making funny faces or even dressing her up in our clothes, all to see and hear her amazing laugh, everyone here I’m sure is familiar with her laugh because there wasn’t a day when you wouldn’t hear it.
As young boys nana was always so generous, always feeding us and always giving us presents and money, we saw a lot of Nana and we all cherished the time that we got to spend with her.
We loved it when nana slept over at our house on Christmas Eve it was like tradition, we all got to share presents and she got to watch our priceless faces when receiving her slightly weird but practical presents.
We saw Nana a lot over the last couple of months, she could never remember my name and often called me Trevor but we still knew she that loved my brothers and I.
Although it was hard seeing Nana in the state that she was in, we always tried to make her smile and laugh, because we would do anything to make her happy and I know that she would do the same for us.
Even though she is gone, we know that she will always be with us, as a bit of nana is in us all, I know this is a sad occasion, but we should also feel rejoice, that nana is out pain and that she has been reunited with her loving husband.
We love you Nana.