June McKinlay

“More precious than rubies”

june_blueJune Norton McKinlay née Hitchcock (1922 – 2004)

junehitchcockMy beloved wife June was born at home on 31 May 1922 in Edithvale, Victoria. She was the elder daughter of William and Frances Judith Hitchcock — Bill and Judy. Her younger sister and only sibling was Nanette, now Naneine.

Early in June’s childhood they lived near Lake Cargelligo in rural New South Wales to farm wheat. It was a tough life, with drought and economic depression. They moved to Geelong in Victoria when June was in high school.

This picture at right was taken at her debutante ball in the 1930s.

June finished school a couple of years before World War II and took up office work.  As war began, there was an especially urgent need for telegraphers. June Norton Hitchcock enlisted in the WAAAF as an Aircraftwoman on 8 April 1942. She trained as a Morse telegraphist at the RAAF Radio School in Melbourne and served at the HQ Wireless Transmitting Station “Frognall” in Canterbury, a suburb of Melbourne.

june_waaafThis is the only photo I have of her in uniform. She didn’t like this picture as she was ill with mumps when it was taken! Later, June was posted to the RAAF base at Tocumwal in Central Southern New South Wales as a telephonist; she was discharged from the WAAAF on 29 Nov 1945.

We met as the war was ending; she called me ‘Mac’. We were married on 7 Dec 1946 at All Saints’ Church in Newtown, Geelong, and honeymooned in Tasmania. That was the only time in her life that June travelled by air.

Our first child, Brian, was born in 1948 while I was studying to become a primary teacher. Robin followed in 1951. Two daughters came some time later, Pauline, and Noella Ann, our last child, who died at birth.

pomborneithouseMy career meant that, as well as living in the city, we spent enjoyable but challenging years at bush schools in the Western District of Victoria. June kept house in the teacher’s cottage adjoining the school where I taught, such as this home in Pomborneit North, a tiny hamlet on the Princes Highway between Colac and Camperdown, where we lived from 1957 to 1959. Later, we lived for some time in Frankston, Upper Fern Tree Gully, Surry Hills, and in Mooroopna and Morwell, where I held senior teaching jobs. All in all, there was a fair bit of moving about and turning of houses into homes—which June did brilliantly.

We retired to the South Coast of New South Wales and then moved to Albury about 1994. On holidays and early in our retirement we traveled quite a bit by car and caravan.

june1June was a Christian all her life, building on foundations she learned from her mother, Judith, who was a strong Christian and life-long Anglican. Encouraged by a friend and colleague of mine, in 1961 we joined a church in Frankston, Victoria where we were refreshed in our Christian faith and filled with God’s Spirit. From then on, we were much involved in church life, Christian friendship and ministry. June loved worship, prayer and singing.

We shared together in my teaching career and our life in the church. My son tells me he can remember long conversations in the kitchen at home:

– about the doings of the day,
– about my next move as a teacher,
– about the best way to make the church a place of life and blessing;
– and about what was best for our family
– and many other things.

june2Even in our final months together, June and I took on her hospitalisation as a challenge to be shared together.

June was a wonderful listener, and always good to talk with. Even in her last years, when she was usually not able to talk for a long time, she would listen powerfully to what the family and I had to share. She often had something keen-witted but loving to say. She smiled a lot and was witty and amusing to talk with and to be with.

June was a great letter writer (until the telephone took over). When we lived in the bush in the 1950s, a steady stream of letters flowed back and forth between her, her mother and my mother.

This is the last picture taken of her—on Christmas Day 2003. Most of her life, June had to cope with painful health problems. In her later years, it was sometimes difficult for her get out and about much. Perhaps to the outsider, her life may have seemed a simple one. But those of us close to her caught glimpses of her inner being. In her spirit, June was an adventurer, searching to know more of this beautiful world and its Creator—a person with many gifts that she used to encourage and bless others. She died on 2nd August 2004.