Mary Esme Aspinall was born in Townsville on April 25, 1927, the second child of Herbert and Eileen (née O’Doherty) Aspinall, a sister for brothers Kevin, Thomas and Desmond.
While Mary was still very young the family moved to Brisbane. Mary began her schooling at St James School, Coorparoo. She successfully completed her secondary schooling in 1944 at Lourdes Hill College, gaining her Senior Certificate.
Mary began informal training for teaching under the direction of the Good Samaritan Sisters at Sts Peter and Paul’s School, Bulimba.
In 1946 Mary responded to a long held desire to enter religious life, and sought permission to join the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. On July 2, 1946 she entered the novitiate and began religious life as Sister Mary Marius. Mary was not keen on her new religious name and after the Second Vatican Council, like many other religious sisters, she gladly took up the invitation to return to her given name, Mary, though family always called her by her second name Esme.
Following her first profession of vows on January 6, 1949, Mary completed her formal training as a teacher. Her first teaching appointment, in 1951, was at St James School, Forest Lodge, and she finished her teaching ministry in Gayndah as a remedial teacher in 1984. The years between were spent in infants and primary classrooms in schools in Queensland, and in Queanbeyan and Braidwood in New South Wales.
For a brief period of two years in 1967 and 1968, while Mary was living in South Johnstone, she travelled the region in the ministry of religious instruction in the State schools, a ministry described in her own words as “a wonderful work… the need for [which was] becoming more and more pressing”.
Life in her later years was a challenge for Mary as she became increasingly frail, though her interest in life in the wider world never diminished. She enjoyed visits from her brothers and took a great interest and pride in her niece and nephews and their children.
Mary had a deep love for her family and especially her brothers. The bonds of love were strong and when distance separated them, Mary took every opportunity to keep in touch with often long descriptive letters to both her immediate and extended family, who all recognised immediately the signature artwork that decorated the envelope.
She was an avid communicator by phone as well. All who knew her admired her sharp mind, kept alert through her love of crosswords, watching the television and writing letters. She was always ‘in the know’. She had an extraordinary memory and paid incredible attention to detail in talking about people and events both in family circles and in the congregation.
One of her favourite activities was her love and skill in painting using both water colours and occasionally oils. No birthday in the family or in her community went by without a hand painted birthday card. Some of her artworks have been framed and have held pride of place in family homes over the years.
She was very generous with her time and talent and never hesitated to produce a small personal work of art on request for particular occasions such as decorated place cards to adorn the community table on feast days or other special occasions. She always acknowledged written communication and small acts of kindness done for her with a few words of gratitude in a hand-painted ‘thank you’ card.
Many who knew her describe Mary as having a gentle spirit and a deep compassion for the less fortunate in our world.
She herself was always appreciative of all who cared for her, especially the staff at Holy Spirit Home in Carseldine, where she spent the last seven years until her final hospitalisation three weeks ago.
When the doctor told her she was dying, Mary displayed her deep faith and trust in God as she accepted the prognosis with a simple statement “I know I’m in God’s hands”. She gradually slipped into unconsciousness, though not before receiving a lovely letter from her much loved brother, Thomas, which her devoted nephew read to her.
Mary died peacefully on the morning of Friday September 20, 2013.