MARY AND ABY WOLFERS

 

 

 

Mary Sabel was the fourth child and third daughter of Abraham Sabel and Leah Swidler and was born on either 17th April or 23rd May, 1900; she celebrated her birthday in April, but her birth certificate stated May.

 

Mary seems to have been an attractive young girl as her sisters sent her photo in to a beauty contest, and she certainly was a lovely older woman, with a regal bearing.  She became an expert seamstress and taught herself the piano, having an excellent sense of rhythm.  After leaving school she became a cost clerk.

 

Mary met Abraham (Aby) Wolfers at the Jewish Club in Forest Gate and after a ‘persistent and charming courtship’ they were married at the East Ham and Manor Park Associate Synagogue on 31st August, 1924.  Aby’s father, the Reverend Philip Wolfers, performed the ceremony. 

 

Aby was born in Barberton in South Africa in 1891, but his family returned to England when he was only 2 years old.  He had had an older brother who died before Aby was born, and subsequently had a sister, Gracie, and a brother, Lionel. 

 

Aby was photographed in academic dress, but does not seem to have had letters after his name.  He seems to have possessed a “towering intellect” and was a brilliant chess player as well as one of England’s top bridge players.   He captained the British Bridge team that won the British Gold Cup in 1937 and wrote many articles, printed in the British Bridge World magazine.  I am unsure as to what Aby did for a living, but he appears to have been an excellent businessman with a finger in many pies including his business, the London Surplus Stores. His excellent card sense and memory must have helped him in his gambling activities which he and Mary pursued on many occasions in Biarritz and Deauville.

 

Aby and Mary had 3 children:  Philip Benjamin, born 23rd July, 1925,  David, born on 31st January, 1927 and Louise Daphne, born 1st March, 1932.  At that time they lived at 100 Princes Park Avenue, Golders Green.  The boys attended Haberdashers Askes School.

 

The story goes that in 1938 Aby decided that war was imminent and with three young children he wanted to keep them safe, so in that year the family sailed in the Rangitiki to Auckland, New Zealand, where they lived in Puriri Avenue, on One Tree Hill.  Life here must have been a tremendous change and shock, especially for Mary, who was used to having a lot of help in her home.  Here she had to learn to cook, and she actually became an excellent pastry cook, making first-class Yorkshire puddings and pies.  In May, 1939, Aby sailed to Sydney to see if Australia was more to his liking, as apparently life in New Zealand at that time was very English village-like, and sent a telegram to Mary saying simply “Pack”.

 

For a short while the family lived in a boarding house in Coogee (which apparently means ‘bad smell’) and the boys were enrolled in the prestigious Sydney Boys’ High School and Louise very unhappily attended a local convent school.  After a couple of months the family moved to their permanent Sydney home in a flat in Bellevue Hill and Louise attended the local public school until 1941 and then spent her final two primary school years at an Opportunity school for gifted children.  The family’s reaction to her being labelled ‘gifted’ was one of disbelieving hilarity, as she was believed to be nowhere as bright as her brilliant brothers.

 

Aby and Mary settled down to a life of retirement in Australia; Aby played chess and solo (nobody played bridge here in those days) and managed his investments while Mary looked after the family and involved herself in Wizo.  When he was 48 Aby had his first heart attack;  he was confined to bed for 6 weeks and was never really well again after that.  In 1948 Aby and Mary imported their old nanny to look after the family and went to London for 6 months. They had a wonderful time, but shortly after their return, on December 26th, Aby died after suffering another heart attack.

 

Mary never remarried, although she came close to it in the 1950s, and she became very well-known in the Australian Jewish community, working for Wizo and being its president for some years.  She travelled in the country, lecturing to women’s groups about Israel and became very much a person in her own right. She was highly respected in the Jewish community;  in 1973 she suffered severely from angina and lived a much quieter life until her death in September, 1980.

 

Philip and David both became doctors, but neither of them was welcomed in Sydney hospitals because of their anti-British activities during the Suez crisis.   They were well-known Zionist agitators and they were not accepted into any teaching hospitals in Sydney although their results were first class and they should have been highly desirable as employees.  Philip went to Wollongong and then Hobart and David to Albury and on to private practice in Melbourne.

 

Philip decided to train as an anaesthetist and left for London where he trained in the Central Middlesex Hospital;  it was here that he met and married a nurse, Rita Rose Salmagne.  Their first child, Anne Beatrice, was born in 1951 in England and Jane Mary Louise was born in Melbourne in 1953;  in January, 1955 when Rita was pregnant with their third child Philip was killed in a car accident while the family was driving to Sydney for a holiday.  Rita broke her back and spent the whole pregnancy in plaster, but a healthy Philip David Eugene was born in July 1955.  Not long after that Rita moved to Sydney and lived near Mary for the rest of Mary’s life and became extremely close to her, especially in the last few years when she needed care which Rita was able to provide. 

 

Louise attended the selective Sydney Girls’ High School, the sister school of that which her brothers attended.  After matriculation she attended Sydney University for a short while, studying Arts, until she decided it wasn’t for her and left to become a secretary.

 

At 18, shortly after her father died, she and Mary went to London for 6 months where she worked as a secretary and enjoyed meeting all the family she had heard about so often.   After returning to Sydney, in 1951 she became engaged to Heinz (Henry) Kobler and they married on 28th October of that year.  Henry came from Vienna in 1938 with his parents and some close cousins.  He was a BSc, BE from Sydney University and worked as an electronics engineer.

 

In 1953 they went to London and stayed there, working, for 2 years and travelling whenever they could.  Henry worked at Decca Radar Ltd, and Louise at British Insulated Callendar’s Cables.  They spent 3 months travelling around Europe from Bergen to Naples by car before they left for Australia in 1955. 

 

In 1956 Louise and Henry’s first son, Anthony Philip, was born, followed 2 years later by their second son, Laurence David.  In 1960 Henry joined the prestigious CSIRO but was seconded in 1969 to work in optics at the Anglo-Australian Telescope in Coonabrabran, in north-western NSW.  He enjoyed his 5-year stint with the project, which necessitated their moving to Canberra for a year in 1971.

 

Louise stayed a housewife until 1967 when she went to Balmain Teachers’ College for 2 years and became a Primary School teacher.   She taught happily and successfully for 18 years until her retirement in 1986, triggered mainly by Henry’s poor cardiac health and their desire to travel overseas while they still could. 

 

After her retirement Louise returned to university where she earned her BA, majoring in English and Linguistics with a very high average.  She spent some time working part-time as a research assistant to a professor at Macquarie University, and still does some proof-reading for her ex-boss and other people who ask for her services.  She worked as a volunteer reader on the Radio for Print Handicapped for 15 years, only leaving when Henry’s failing health required her to be near him.

 

Henry had introduced Louise, and subsequently their sons, to skiing early in their marriage and each year they spent most of their short holiday periods in the snow, leaving many happy memories and photographic records.

 

Henry suffered his first heart attack in 1977, when he was 53.   He was offered a bypass, but it was very early days for those operations then and he waited until 1984 before having an extremely successful quad bypass.  He and Louise subsequently enjoyed about 10 years of having annual skiing holidays overseas in both Europe and the United States, always touring well-known sites and visiting family and friends at the same time. 

 

In 1994 Henry was diagnosed with scleroderma, an auto-immune disease which sometimes follows cancer (he had had a cancerous kidney removed in the 80s) and travelling overseas became more difficult.  The disease progressed slowly, but Henry died from pulmonary fibrosis in 2002.

 

Louise moved from their large home 18 months later and now lives in a town-house much more suitable to her widowed situation.  She is very happy in it, although she is frequently away on holiday, and her life is very full.  She plays competition scrabble, competition bridge, plays a trumpet in a local concert band, still plays tennis and still goes skiing.    She and cousin Pamela Loval play very earnest and intense games of scrabble on the internet whenever they both have time;  they have come to know much more about each other’s lives in their chats on these occasions and both enjoy the competition very much.

 

Anthony Philip:  born 14th September, 1956.

 

Tony went to North Sydney Boys’ High School for 5 years  and Narrabundah High in Canberra for one year.  At school in Canberra he played representative soccer, Australian Rules and Rugby League and enjoyed his year immensely.  He also played representative soccer in the weekend competition, which severely restricted his family’s being able to frequent the nearby snowfields.

 

Tony went to the University of NSW and attained 15/16 of his Commerce degree, never finishing it, much to his parents’ dismay.  He then joined a stockbroking firm and proceeded to do very well in the money market until the bottom fell out of it in the 1990s.  Some years later he decided to become an Ambulance Officer and is now a happy paramedic in that service. 

 

In 1986 Tony married Marie Anet, a BA who was working in the communications field.  Their son, Alexander Adrian, was born in 1988 and their daughter, Madeline Else, in 1990.  Both children are talented sports players and are in representative teams for soccer and other games, besides being more than adequate academically.  Marie became a Primary School teacher and now teaches full-time.

 

Laurence David:  born 25th November, 1958.

 

Laurie also went to North Sydney Boys’ High School and Narrabundah High in Canberra, but for his final two years of schooling went to Sydney Grammar School, renowned for its academic prowess.  He also played soccer for his school and represented it in diving, which the boys were able to practise in their home pool.

 

Laurie entered Sydney University and became a dentist.  He worked in various practices until setting up his own in a northern Sydney suburb in 1994 and now has a thriving practice there and is opening a second surgery in a nearby suburb in July this year.  He is a forward-looking practitioner, having bought a dental laser last year and been to the US on more than one occasion to hone his skills in micro-dentistry. 

 

In 1987 Laurie married Marian Maltby, a divorcee with two children, David, now aged 21 and an all-round Adonis and Kirsty, now 19, who enjoys her work in child care.   In 1988, their son, Simon Laurence, was born and has grown to become almost a clone of his father.   He is a keen, talented drummer who spent last year on a student exchange program in Denmark.

 

 

Louise Kobler, Sydney