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Norma's legacy to help women find hope and safety

26 June 2017

Norma's legacy to help women find hope and safety

Caption: Donald with his daughter Susan.

When Donald McDonald laid eyes on Norma Cundy at a dance in Melbourne’s Collins Street in 1949, he was smitten. The couple “clicked”, Donald says. Within 10 days they were engaged, and within three months they were married.

Donald’s mother had wanted him to marry a serious “church girl”, but, Donald grins broadly as he recalls: “Norma was just all girl – she was very attractive!”

The young couple started married life with nothing but a suitcase of clothing each. They had a daughter, Susan, and lived in Victoria then Northern NSW. When Norma’s health declined in retirement years, the couple moved to Sydney to be closer to Susan and their three grandsons.

By that stage, Donald had spent the best part of a decade caring for Norma. He remembers fondly the long and happy marriage they shared, despite the challenges Norma faced in her childhood.

“When Norma was very young, her mother died from what we understand was cancer. Her father George had been in both wars and seemed to spend a lot of time in the local bar after he returned,” Donald says.

“Poor George then ended up with three children – including Norma as a baby – so he called in a relative. She came up as a housekeeper but after a year they got married and had two daughters. According to Norma, she was left living like Cinderella – doing all the terrible jobs.”

Norma finished school at 16. Still experiencing trouble at home, she ran away to the local police station and refused to return home. That is when the police found safe accommodation for her at The Salvation Army’s Spring House in Melbourne.

Norma found a job as an untrained dental assistant and was “poor as a church mouse”, Donald says. But she was doing well – enjoying her life and the new friends she met at Spring House. 

After Norma passed away, Donald convinced his daughter and grandsons that they should donate to The Salvation Army. “We should be doing something as a memorial with The Salvation Army,” he told them. “They were so good to look after Norma in those early years between school and marriage.”

Veronika Peters, Development Director at The Salvation Army, says: “We felt so grateful when Donald and his family approached us and suggested funding some refurbishment of one of our women’s crisis accommodation centres.

“The service they are supporting provides emergency accommodation to help young women and families who find themselves in sudden crisis without a safe place to go. There are also units available for supported independent living.

“It is very inspiring when you see a couple who has lived their life well, joyfully pay a good deed forward for the next generation. Anyone can find themselves in crisis – and everyone needs to know there is a place where they can feel safe and find strategies for a new beginning.”

Susan says: “My mother never forgot the happy times she had at Spring House. Her family will always be grateful to The Salvation Army.”

By Naomi Singlehurst

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