“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” They may have been the words of Oscar Wilde, but they were the mantra for one of the South Coast’s greatest advocates, Maureen Nathan.
The Batemans Bay business and artistic community is in mourning after the death of Maureen Elaine Nathan (nee Lotzof) on 21 July. She was 75.
As the hundreds of people who gathered at the Bay Pavilions on Saturday, 23 July for a memorial service heard, Maureen, the local pharmacist, was the sort of woman who made sure every moment mattered. Doing nothing, they were told, was simply not in her vocabulary.
The celebration of Maureen’s life was conducted by Rabbi Nicole Roberts, from Sydney.
Rabbi Roberts described Maureen, the mother of Adam, mother-in-law of Alice and devoted grandmother to Emily and Lucy, and partner of Robert, as the beating heart of her circle, regularly pumping out advice to friends and family.
“In Judaism, memory brings comfort,” Rabbi Roberts said. “Maureen left us with an abundance of memories.”
Eurobodalla Mayor Mathew Hatcher described the former councillor as dedicated and committed to everything in which she was involved.
“Maureen was someone who had a huge heart and you always knew she was in the room,” he said.
“Even though she was going through chemotherapy, she still turned up to council meetings.
“She will be sorely missed.”
Born in Durban, South Africa, on 5 May, 1947, she lived with her grandparents from age four while her parents went to the US to work. Her father told Maureen, a girl of spirit from a young age, early on that she could either be the black sheep of the family with no friends, or blend in with everyone and have lots of friends. She told her father she wanted to be the black sheep – but to find fellow black sheep as friends.
The family arrived in Australia when Maureen was 13, moving around so much, Rabbi Roberts said, that they were to become known affectionately as “the wandering Jews of Parramatta”.
Adam recalls them moving to Lockhart in the Riverina, where not only did Maureen open a pharmacy business, she also decided that the town needed a cheese shop and that she should stand for local council.
“I remember when we moved to Lockhart, where she raised me as a working single mum, it gave me such a great experience living in a farming community, of how people looked after each other,” he said.
“It was through her pharmacies, at Lockhart and at Batehaven, that I really saw her dedication to her work and to care for locals.
“She even had her own radio show talking about health care because she believed pharmacists should not just be involved in sickness but be involved with optimal health care.”
Adam told the service at Batemans Bay that he blessed the day Robert came into his mother’s life about 20 years ago.
“You have been her rock in your care for mum,” he said.
After retirement, Maureen and Robert spent half the year at their beloved Batemans Bay and the other in Robert’s native France.
Robert paid tribute to his beloved partner, describing her as a woman of exceptional mind, with a rare ability to find solutions to the most complex of problems.
“It started with your remarkable dad, who told you when you were little that you must always express yourself and fight for your thoughts – never be afraid to express yourself. And you never were. That was the start of the person who you have become today.”
Robert said his life changed when he met Maureen, adding that she made their lives rich, full of adventure, joy, discovery and true love.
He said his French friends described her as larger than life, with the literal translation meaning of large as in “monument”.
An apt description for the woman who helped make possible a sculpture, entitled Soar, to be erected next to the Batemans Bay Library. The sculpture was designed in consultation with Maureen and her family, as a celebration of her life.
Maureen was also known for her other “love” – the old Mogo Town, which she bought in 1999 before transforming it into the Original Gold Rush Colony. When it was destroyed in the 2020 bushfires, she took it in her stride, according to family and friends, more concerned with how other people were faring than herself.
This optimism remained with her even when she became ill, retaining a great sense of humour and philosophy about the limited time she had left.
Recently she told a friend, with a big smile on her face, that she was lucky to have been here for so long.
Her funeral service was held in Sydney on 27 July.
Friends and family are invited to pay tribute to her life through a donation to Ovarian Cancer Australia in her honour.