Mary was born in Tailem Bend, younger sister to Jim and daughter of Annie and Luke Moore. Her upbringing was typical of many Catholic families in that era, with stories of connection to school and parish along with constant hospitality extended to the nuns, priests and any visiting Catholics.
In her later years one of Mary’s favourite stories was an account of her and Jim meeting some returned servicemen at the railway station and taking them home for tea. Their mum was waiting anxiously for them and as they walked towards her they yelled out ‘it’s okay mum, they’re Catholic’.
The family moved to Adelaide where Mary finished school and began working in the railways. This is where she met Otto, an immigrant from Fehmarn, Germany, who was completing an apprenticeship.
Otto noticed Mary as she made her way home along the train platform each day. Their courtship was conducted under the watchful eye of Annie and Luke. Nights out often involved Otto playing cards with Annie and Luke while Mary carried on with her latest knitting or sewing project. Annie used to worry that Mary would have nothing to do in her old age because she did not like cards.
Otto and Mary married on
April 7 1956 at St Ignatius Church. In the early years of their marriage they lived in Snowtown, Mt Barker Junction, Aldgate and Mansfield Park. Anne, Anthony and Martin were born. In 1967 Cairns Street Norwood became their home where Mary stayed until moving to Flora McDonald Lodge in June 2017. While living in Norwood, the arrival of Clare and Ruth completed the Nocka family.
Mary’s life was devoted to her family, her parish community and to the Catholic schools that each of the five children attended. Her life as a school parent began early as it was discovered at a young age that Anne was profoundly deaf. She began school at the age of two, Mary being determined that Anne would learn to speak. In those early years at the Oral School, Mary’s lifelong commitment to volunteer work and fundraising began.
Mary had an extraordinary gift for gathering people together around a cause – she could get people baking for a cake stall, making loaves of sandwiches for a luncheon, selling badges on The Parade or taking their turn on a canteen roster. Wherever Mary was, Otto was not far away, lending a hand at the working bee, on the barbecue or in the work of general repairs and maintenance.
When the youngest of the Nocka children started school, Mary
re-entered the paid workforce initially as a carer.
Fr Sam Byrne SJ approached Mary to work in the Norwood parish office. Mary was reluctant, saying she had nothing that resembled modern secretarial skills. Fr Byrne was insistent, saying he wanted someone who could go out into the community and bring the community into the office. Mary did this work until she retired, taking it upon herself to manage many parish priests and Jesuits who spent time in the parish.
She had a strong and feisty character; you did things her way and she was pretty uncompromising. In that way, she got things done.
In her retired life Mary’s energy for community work continued. Her children had long since finished school so her time was now spent visiting the sick in the parish, and volunteering as a ‘Lavender Lady’ at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. She loved this ministry, taking every opportunity to connect with people and hear their stories.
She also loved being ‘Mary’ to her two grandchildren who lived in Adelaide, giving her a late opportunity to get once again involved in school volunteering.
In the last four years of her life, Mary’s feet, then hips had worn out. She lived out her years being cared for at Tappeiner Court and then Calvary Flora McDonald. Otto had joined her in care, leaving behind their beloved St Ignatius parish and Norwood Parade. He died in April 2018 after he and Mary had shared 62 years of married life.
Mary never talked a great deal about herself or her inner world. Her mark was made in the communities around her. She had a great interest in others, especially those in need of help. She was a doer, not one to sit idle.
Whether in meetings or at the football, she had her knitting in hand. Evenings at Cairns Street were ironing or at the sewing machine; she rarely watched television. She never did take to playing cards.
Mary’s generosity had a positive impact on so many lives. She was sustained through prayer and celebration of the Eucharist, something she did daily for most of her adult life. Together Mary and Otto raised a family and lived a life in service that left a big imprint.Jump to next article