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Selfless and inspiring


Sr Joan Barry rsj - Born: April 23 1922 | Died: January 10 2022

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Joan Barry was a woman with a big heart who loved life. She had a long and adventurous life which she wrote about in her later years – originally on a laptop, later on an iPad.

She was born in Berri to Terence and Minnie Barry in 1922. Her father served in the army during World War 1 and after being wounded he was sent to a military hospital in Manchester. Minnie Harper, a local girl, and her friends were visiting the sick soldiers; romance blossomed and continued by correspondence once Terry returned to Australia. Minnie accepted his proposal and arrived in Adelaide in 1919, married Terry and headed off to the Riverland to a section called Lone Gum.

Life was very basic on their fruit block but Joan, as the second child and first girl in the family of four boys and four girls, was able to enjoy a very happy upbringing and she learnt to take responsibilities. Her primary education was at the local one teacher school, then she rode a bike to the Berri Higher Primary for a term or so. In January 1936 a Catholic school was opened in Berri. Joan attended for a term and then was invited to the Juniorate at Cowandilla for her secondary education. On her many visits to Kensington Convent she got to know some of the early Sisters who lived and worked with Mary MacKillop such as Mother Laurence O’Brien and Sr Annette Henschke. These woman had a great influence on Joan.

In January 1941 she entered the Sisters of St Joseph and became a postulant. As was the custom then she was sent to teach Grade 3 at the Bridge Street school. It was a case of learning by doing, under the guidance of older Sisters. She spent a year in North Sydney for her novitiate before being professed in January 1943 and then undergoing teacher training for another year before returning to SA in 1944 for a lifetime of involvement in education.

Joan taught all year levels in primary school and a variety of subjects in secondary classes.

After obtaining her driver’s licence in 1965 she spent a year on the Port Pirie Motor Mission with Sr Anne Marie, now Sr Judy Gurry. This was a complete change but Joan’s diverse teaching skills came in handy as they visited many schools between Peterborough and Port Augusta to give religious instruction lessons.

Her remarkable versatility was called on in 1966 when she was asked to move to St Joseph’s Juniorate at Aldgate where she taught various secondary classes in the mornings and then after lunch would arrange for necessary work to maintain the large gardens and as she noted, ‘look over the property in the company of Laddie, the dog’.

Joan continued her own professional development by completing a Diploma of Teaching in 1978 and becoming involved in professional associations such as the Australian Council for Educational Administration and various principal associations. Most of her school experience after 1970 was in secondary schools including Mary MacKillop College, then in 1981 she was appointed principal at Mount Carmel College, Rosewater, where she led the change from an all girls’ school to a co-ed establishment catering for a full range of options for students.

By 1992 Joan accepted another challenge as principal at the primary school in Kadina for a year. After that she went to Port Lincoln where her many talents were put to good use with boarders, school administration, relief teaching and much visitation of the local community. She was able to enjoy close contact with her brothers Maurice and Pat and their families. For 19 years she loved life in Port Lincoln and it was with some sadness that she packed up to move back to Adelaide. Throughout her life, Joan would have moved to a new house at least 21 times.

Her extended families considered both Joan and her sister Maureen, or Sr Eunice (deceased), their family treasures. Both women blessed these families with love and inspired them all to be better people. Joan strived to attend every family wedding, meet every new baby and attend many family celebrations. She remained connected with her siblings and their growing families and was always interested in their lives and kept up to date, by phone, email or Face Time.

Joan embodied the qualities of her patron saint. She was an inspiration! She was a strong and brave woman who took on a calling and career. She protected the weak and less fortunate, she showed kindness and love to all. She was much loved in the Port Lincoln community for her contribution and selfless nature and was delighted when an area of the playground was named after her.

Life in the city from 2012 enabled Joan to enjoy contact with many of those she had taught, staff with whom she had worked and her growing numbers of nieces and nephews. The highlight of one recent birthday was to attend a Port Adelaide football match. Despite her many health issues, Joan tried her best to enjoy life and to make it happy for those around her.

Early in 2020 she recognised that it was time to give up her licence and to move into Kensington Convent where she could get more personal support. Joan was a very wise woman who accepted this new stage of life with great peace. She loved living at the convent and then, when she needed more care, Calvary Flora McDonald.

Speaking by phone to her niece, Marianne Cox, on her last morning, Joan shared that she was feeling well, she was in good spirits and as usual was asking about the family. She signed off with her famous line, ‘God Bless you all’.

Joan quietly slipped away on January 10, just missing the opportunity to celebrate her 100th birthday! She is buried with her sister, Maureen (Sr Eunice), in the Mitcham cemetery belonging to the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

– Sheila McCreanor rsj


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