Kate Press, 19 October 1943 - 12 February 2009
Kate was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on her 40 Birthday in 1983, but kept working although experiencing some slight walking difficulties. She became very depressed and at a loss what to do - until she re-discovered Genealogy.
She purchased a very basic Desk Top Computer in the early 80's which was quickly mastered, teaching herself how to use WordStar (an early word processing program) and going on to run computer lessons at home for typists and others struggling to come to grips with the new technology.
She joined the Victorian genealogy society, 'The Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies', becoming an active member, including being elected as Senior Vice President and setting up the first high quality displays seen locally, incorporating a striking black, red and white theme which was extremely successful. She embraced computer technology before most in the Institute, increasing its use and value in genealogical research.
The idea of an Institute Open Day was her brainchild and probably the first of its kind in Australia. The first Open Day was held at the Hartwell (Melbourne) Church Hall in 1989 and was a great success, the hall was swamped with genealogists and the curious. It went on to become one of the Institute's very successful promotional tools and fundraisers and would never have been achieved without Kate's determination and dedication.
The Open Day become an effective means of promotion for many genealogy societies, both in Australia and around the world. She also ran Irish Genealogy classes for many years at the Victorian Council for Adult Education and her book 'Bibliography for Researching Irish Family History at the State Library of Victoria' (still in print) was monumental. She always self published and the book reflected her high standards of presentation.
Kate took over the AIGS Club newsletter 'The Genealogist' in 1991 and transformed it from a simple journal to an award-winning magazine. She changed the physical format from saddle-stitch to staple, employed the services of a high quality printer and made good use of her skills in computer technology to desk top publish. The Genealogist also saw a dramatically improved layout with specialist contributors and the use of graphics, photos, interesting historical snippets etc. added a new dimension to the growing magazine.
The work of Kate and the editorial team led to the Genealogist being jointly honoured with the prestigious 1999 Elizabeth Simpson Award, an International award which is presented annually to the best genealogy magazine produced.
Kate had a major impact on raising the Institute's appearance to the outside world, as well as devoting a great deal of her time to the production of a high quality magazine for some ten years.
Kate was made an Honorary Life Member of The Australian Institute of Genealogists for her contributions.
After adding a modem to her the computer Kate discovered the internet and went on to built a major Web Site on her Family History-
which won an international Genealogy Excellence Award from "They Live Again" for both researching genealogy and putting together a web site to share information with others
When personal computers became more readily available, she included these in her Genealogy Classes at the Council for Adult Education, introducing a number of courses on Researching Family History using the Internet, backed up with a Computer Disc which was supplied to each class member, giving instant access to the World Wide Web of Genealogy and introducing many people to the use of this now invaluable part of the Family History process.
After retiring from the Magazine editorship, she went on to research and fully document major family histories of her relatives, including the Austin, Shine, Burke, Gorsuch, Press, Irvine and Wolf families and contribute erudite articles to Irish Family History Magazines around the world, becoming a world renowned Genealogist.
As well as Family History she also ran a course in Tracing the History of Your House at the CAE and went on to write a book on this with Des Regan.
She published a set of microfiche, 'The Tithe Defaulters', based on the research of an Irish Historian associate, Stephen McCormac (still available), which is now available on disc and online, then wrote and published a major book on Irish Family History 'West limerick Families Abroad' which is still in print.
She was an insatiable collector of Books on Genealogy, leaving possibly the largest private collection of Family History Books in Victoria.
After this lifetime of doing - her final greatest achievement was her three beautiful Grandchildren, she loved to see them and talk to them. A wonderful wife, mother and grandmother the legacy she left in so many areas will live forever.
Each time we gently blow away the ashes of time by researching our ancestors ...........they live again.
A Eulogy by her daughter, Justine Louise Press.
My mother will be sadly missed by all who knew her. She was a beautiful woman, an intelligent woman who had educated herself about many things and a strong woman who fought her illness with both courage and determination. My mother was a talented researcher, a respected genealogist whose body of work is remarkable considering she achieved most of it after being diagnosed with MS. Her passing precipitated a flood of emails and phone calls from fellow researchers. Their kind words of praise and deepest sympathy are a measure of just how many people across the globe she both assisted and inspired with her work. For all of this and more I am so very proud of her.
My dad and I are still grappling with the fact that mum is gone. She was so young, after all, only 65, and she was still beautiful, and surprisingly productive. Naturally things were getting very hard for her. She had suffered so long with MS. In the last few years she also endured breast cancer and the repeated debilitating MS attacks left her with diminishing eyesight and greatly impaired hand control. It absolutely broke all our hearts to see how she struggled with the things we take for granted. And yet she rarely complained. When diagnosed 25 years ago I remember my mum was very angry. She was proud and didn't want her friends to pity her so she pushed everyone away. Our happy family all but fell apart. My father supported her through this most difficult of times and somehow my mother emerged with the strength not only to carry on but to reinvent herself as a expert in the field of family history. This was how my mum overcame the devastation at having been dealt this awful lot in life. She simply got on with the business of being productive. My mother was not a watcher, she was a doer and I can say in all honesty Ill never understand how she managed to do so much.
Before my mum got sick she was a human dynamo. I don't remember her ever sitting down even to eat. She has always worked, or ran her own businesses. She was a book-keeper for a number of businesses. She sold antiques, imports and indoor pot-plants. She acquired qualifications in accounting, computers and legal studies and later taught computer studies. She learned and later taught upholstery and our house is full of antique chairs and couches she restored. At the same time she played tennis, renovated the house, jogged, hosted dinner parties, supported my dad in his role as a councilor on Malvern council. Her home was immaculate and filled with the fantastic antiques she loved to collect. The garden blossomed as a result of her green thumb. Throughout my childhood we were members of the National Trust and we regularly visited the Old Melbourne Gaol and Ripponlea or holidayed at historical places like Walhalla. My mum loved history. When I asked my mum an innocent question at the dinner table I was educated as to the Latin or Greek roots of a word, or made to look up countries in the atlas or directed to Brewers Phrase and Fable or Rogets Thesaurus. Mum always listened to classical music and consequently I retain a love of composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. Twice she saved and took dad and I to Europe and to visit England and Ireland the birth places of our ancestors. She poured over travel guides and planned our tours down to the last detail so that we could pack in as much art and culture as humanly possible. She took me to the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, the Louvre and the Vatican, to the Uffizi and the Eifel Tower. We walked everywhere because that was the best way to see everything. This was in 1982. It was the last time I remember my mum being able to walk normally.
Despite being so busy my father and I were never neglected. Mum was a fantastic cook and family and friends were treated to all kinds of amazing dishes she made from scratch, casseroles, souffles incredible desserts and home made soups. She made preserves from the fruit from the fruit trees in our back yard and fresh lemon cordial from the lemon tree. She sent me to school with the most fantastic lunches so fantastic that other kids complained to their mums that their lunches weren't up to scratch. Even the dogs ate home coked meals. Mum took me to ballet, piano and French lessons after school. She let me have pets of every kind for she loved animals too. And she was my best friend. We talked about everything and everyone and I considered her wise and an astute judge of character. Until I was 14 the first time I remember my mums diagnosis with MS impacting on my life - I had an idyllic childhood.
In January 2009 I celebrated my 40th birthday. Mum rang me and sang happy birthday. It was the only part of the phone call that went smoothly for her for after that she began to struggle to speak. In the past few years MS was beginning to win its battle. Not only had my mum all but lost the use of her hands and been declared legally blind she was also losing her ability to speak clearly. She told me that it had been on her 40th birthday that the doctor told her she had MS. She said for some reason it seemed more painful to have such news on this significant day. I feel a great sadness to lose my mum as I turn 40. My little girls are 2, 4 and 6 years of age. They will not have her knowledge and guidance to draw on. I know she was as proud of me as I am of her. In the years to come I will miss her so much.
When mum picked up the phone my first words were always Mother bear? and her reply was always Baby bear. She always said it with a warm smile that I could hear in her voice. I could tell what sort of day she was having by the degree of effort present in those two words. And more and more there was suffering and pain perceptible in her voice. I feel so sorry for myself that I will never hear those comforting motherly words again. But I don't feel sorry for her. She is at peace now free of the dreadful disease that dogged her life. I hope she is in that other place talking to all the relatives she knew so much about, finally finding all the missing pieces in the mammoth genealogical puzzle to which she devoted her life.
Justine Press (Lovegrove)
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