Through some stories we may learn a little more about the history of our area.
Vale Mary Fleiter
A Conondale legend in her own time.
Sadly, Conondale recently lost a stalwart and local legend, Mary Fleiter. Mary left us after a short illness. She was well known in the Conondale and Maleny area and her passing is a great loss to our community.
Mary was born in Maleny and grew up on the family farm in Conondale. She was in a class of just four children at school and Lloyd was one of them. They married in 1961.
At the time there was no high school in Maleny so Mary boarded at the Girls Grammar School in Brisbane. She would often speak of the awful beetroot sandwiches they used to have for lunch. After Grammar School she went to Teachers College at Kelvin Grove and spent many years teaching at various schools in South East Queensland before retiring to have a family.
She had a passion for the pioneer woman of the Conondale district. I believe that today we celebrate the life of one modern pioneer woman whose life has touched many. From the school children she taught at Kenilworth and Conondale to the quilters in Gympie at Camp Tranquility at Caloundra where she and Joyce organised the first South East Queensland Quilt Show to the Stitches and Craft show in Brisbane where she helped her friend Frances for many years.
We believe we live busy lives. Not Mary, she thrived on being busy and she would make you tired just watching her.
Photo right: Mary Fleiter with her daughter Lois
She would be up with the sparrows and off to milk the cows with Lloyd, then home for breakfast and get her four kids off to school. Pack a lunch for Lloyd and some afternoon smoko, come after school time it would be back to the milking shed for the evening milk then home to get tea and the kids to bed or catch up on their homework.
Mary had a passion for the history of places. So much so she has written two books about Conondale and the area. The first in 1987 was a history of the town written for the 75th anniversary of the Conondale School and the second launched recently about the pioneer women of the Conndale district called “They all had a Heart of Gold”.
Mrs Fleiter was a concerned citizen as well. She would hound our politicians concerning roads, traffic, the swimming pool and the hall. Her concern extended to helping the elderly, the lonely and the needy. Mary assisted the Red Shield appeal for the Salvation Army and was instrumental in giving help to families and children in times of need.
She had the gift of the gab. She could talk on most subjects and enhanced her ability to speak publicly by joining the Toastmasters. This she enjoyed and would encourage all and sundry to join. It was through this organization that Mary led a Youth Leadership course in public speaking for the senior class at Conondale School.
For the last fifteen years she has been a speaking ambassador for the Queensland Cancer Council where she would tour the district giving talks on how best to prevent and fight skin cancer.
When Lloyd gave up his presidency of the Conondale Hall Committee after 48years, Mary attended regularly to keep an eye on the progress of the hall. She was a frequent member of the Conondale Forum and many times she could be seen holding the floor on a particular subject concerning the local community.
Mary with husband, Lloyd to her left at a presentation from
the Conondale Hall Committee in 2005
Mary has left a legacy of four great children, Rex, Judy, John and Lois and three grandchildren, Kellie, Mitchell and Ben. She has enjoyed them all. One of her greatest achievements was to instil in her kids to ‘aim high and have a go’ no matter how hard it might first seem to be.
We will sadly miss her. Not just those of us here today, but everyone who came in contact with her no matter how brief.
Quilters have a saying – “she who has the biggest stash wins”. Well, I believe Mary has won hands down. Her fabric roomies stacked floor to ceiling and the shelves are bulging with the weight of all the fabric.
Her quilting prowess was such she was invited to judge quilts in Mt. Isa and New Zealand along with the Maleny Show for many years. In 1992 Mary travelled to California to enter in the Road to California Quilters conference, returning with a first prize for her efforts.
The pioneer quilts she organised recently for the Conondale Quilters to make put the quilters on the map. So much so busloads of quilters would arrive each quilt show from Toowoomba, Gympie, Maryborough and Brisbane.
Mary’s other passion was Christmas time, decorating the family home. Many of you will easily bring to mind the stunning decorations Mary would make, buy and hang in the house. Children from around the district would often come to witness the spectacle and beauty of Mrs Fleiter’s Christmas house.
She would often say you must have a plan for everything to go smoothly. Well I think she would have her plan all sorted out.
Farewell Mary. Today you enter a new phase in your journey. I reckon she is looking down from up there saying, “Get a move on you lot, there are quilts to be made and things to be done”. Farewell – my wife – mum- my grandma and my friend!
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