By Natashya Fernandez
A Papal Blessing from Pope Francis, a special birthday greeting from Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, a letter of congratulations from HRH Queen Elizabeth, and celebrations with family and friends was the icing on the cake for Kathleen Thompson who turned 100 years young on 13 April this year.
The devoted Catholic, Mrs Thompson says her strong faith is thanks to her grandmother’s Irish ancestry, the loss of her husband in 1963, leaving her with three teenagers and a toddler and her role as a proud grandmother to 11 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.
Born on 13 April in 1917 in Subiaco, Kathleen was the only girl among four boys.
Growing up in Perth, she attended school for a short period at St Joachim’s in Victoria Park and Aranmore Catholic School, and finished her final years at Sacred Heart in Highgate.
Kathleen explained that in those days while it was common to work rather than study, after she left high school, she started Business College, graduating in shorthand and typing.
Her first job she said, was at a publishing company answering calls and doing the odd job here and there.
“From there I was told to apply at the Commonwealth where I worked in the (then) Department of the Air Force documenting flights coming in and out.”
Growing up, Kathleen had many adventures and travelled around Australia and New Zealand with her mother, Aileen Quinn and grandmother in 1935 before settling down and marrying John Thompson on 2 September, 1944.
While John was at war, Kathleen shuttled between Wyalkatchem in the Wheatbelt and Perth with the children until she settled back down in Perth.
Kathleen recalled that a big influence in her life was her mum, Aileen Quinn who was well known in the Catholic circle, she said.
“Mum did a lot of housekeeping for the priests and taught me and my brothers a lot about the Catholic Faith, which I passed on to the children as well,” Kathleen said.
Tragedy struck Kathleen at the young age of 46 when her husband passed away in 1963 leaving her with three teenagers and a toddler.
With not much of a choice, Kathleen said she had to re-enter the workforce to provide for the family.
“At this time there were very few mature age working women and I had to re-train myself to go back to work,” she said.
“I got a job at the Australian Taxation office and later worked at the Department of Immigration as well.”
Her close bond with her youngest brother, the late Bishop Peter Quinn, was important to Kathleen as it helped her during this time.
Bishop Quinn spent a considerable time with Kathleen who in turn provided him with support throughout his priestly life.
“When my mum and I shared a home together in 1968, Peter would visit regularly to spend his weekly rest days with us.
“He also spent many memorable days with me during his priestly years and when I moved to Prindiville Village,” she said.
With fond memories of her mother’s life, Kathleen’s daughter Marie said that throughout their lives, her mum has always been a great help.
“Whether it was guiding us into the workforce, teaching us how to drive, or giving us help with babysitting, I have more understanding of how lucky we are and how physically fit our mother was.
“It never seemed a problem for mum to have grandchildren to look after, whether it was one or a multitude,” she said.
While attending Mass was a big part of her life, as age took over, it became more difficult for Kathleen to do so.
Instead, Kathleen’s son Vincent said that her only solace is the book of prayers that she reads every day.
“It is a simple daily prayer book with Psalms and prayers that gives her strength and keeps her going,” he said.
Always independent and strong, Kathleen attributes her longevity to being physically active, trying new ventures, joining new groups like bowls, mah-jong or just taking long walks.
“Being active and having the responsibility of looking after my grandchildren and great grandchildren have kept me young.
“My children have supported me all the way and more. I’m very proud of them. They have given me good times over the years and being with them now is very special for me,” she added.
With many festivities planned for her birthday, Kathleen said that her children have bowled her over with the celebrations.