On July 5, my eldest sister Nicole Debra Lawrence (the eldest of six children) passed away at Leongatha Memorial Hospital. She was just 42 years-old when her battle with cancer could no longer be fought. We, her family, partner Jack and her two precious young boys miss her deeply and wish everyday that she was still with us. Our worlds have been changed forever.
Nicole’s first encounters with South Gippsland started at a young age, when our family would spend summer holidays at Inverloch, leaving us with special memories of riding the waves at Surf Beach and digging into local fish and chips. Nicole’s career and fondness of life in the country eventually took her back to the region some time later. Nicole obtained a PhD in Chemical Engineering, with a focus on dairy research from Melbourne University. The dairy industry gave her the opportunity to apply her great intellectual talent to an industry she was passionate about, and also provided the chance to travel throughout regional Victoria while working for Murray Goulburn. I remember joining her for the road trips on my school holidays and admiring how many friends she had at every town, including motel and restaurant staff at Leongatha, Rochester, Cobram and at headquarters in Melbourne.
In 2005 she moved to Inverloch after transferring permanently to MG’s Leongatha branch. Nicole integrated herself into the community from the beginning. She joined the local tennis and book club, and volunteered with the elderly in Wonthaggi. There were definitely stories of time spent at local pub too. In 2006 she started a research position at Burra Foods in Korumburra. It was here that Nicole started a new chapter in her life, she met Jack Stephenson and soon they welcomed Ethan and Jayden into the world in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Nicole’s lifelong dream of becoming a mother was realised and from the moment she held her little boys she was the most dedicated, attentive and loving mother. She placed significant importance on educational activities and would attend the children’s’ reading sessions at Inverloch library for as long as her health would permit. Not long after their arrivals, Nicole, who had already faced much adversity since she was young, was confronted with a new battle – cancer.
She fought it like a warrior, she fought for every extra day that she had with her children. Those who witnessed the fight have been left in awe of her strength and determination. In her final days, the wonderful staff at Leongatha Memorial Hospital accommodated our large family so that we could spend days and nights by Nicole’s side, caring for her and sharing every special last moment we could. The hospital also welcomed the flood of family, friends and colleagues that came to see Nicole. She had an endless number of friends and somehow managed to stay in close contact with each and everyone of them. She drew energy from the people around her, all from different walks of life. During Nicole’s illness, friends, neighbours, fellow book club and mother’s group members dropped food off at the house and provided support. We, Nicole’s family, are forever grateful for the compassion shown by the staff at the hospital and the kindness of all those that made Nicole feel at home in Inverloch. Your love and support of Nicole, Jack and the boys will never be forgotten, thank you.
Ema Lawrence, Templestowe