Chance are if you live in St George and have connections to any charitable cause, you would have at some point, crossed paths with Claire (Wendy) Cornish - perhaps more than once.
Those who were closest to her or may have had a fleeting passing pleasantry with the Oatley resident, would no doubt remember her zest for helping people less fortunate.
Mrs Cornish died of pancreatic cancer on October 13. She was diagnosed in June earlier this year. She was 85.
She was known as the woman you wouldn't dare go by without buying a raffle ticket. Her car number plate was RAFFLES, and she was affectionately known as 'Mrs Raffles'. She raised more than one million dollars for many different charities.
Among her fundraising achievements, as part of St George Hospital's Lamrock Committee, Mrs Cornish raised enough money to fund a room at the cancer care cottage for country patients, Bezzina House. She also supported Oatley Lions Club, Rotary Hurstville, Amnesty International, Jeans for Genes, Probus, Guide Dogs and many more. She was part of a social knitting group, much to the amusement of her family as she couldn't actually knit.
Mrs Cornish was often seen holding a bucket for the charity of the day on the footpaths of Mortdale, Oatley and Connells Point. Many would notice her beanie or her sparkly gold top hat.
Her other passion was being a member of the Country Women's Association, which she joined in 2009. President of the St George Sutherland Shire Branch of the CWA, Valerie Wilson, said Mrs Cornish was the "queen of raising money".
"She had a special commitment for people who had a disability, but it was people who were disadvantaged in any way - whether it's because of their race or sex - it didn't really matter to her why they were disadvantaged, it was about how she could she help them if they were disadvantaged," Mrs Wilson said.
"She had a theory - every dollar you raised no matter how small, together made a bigger dollar for that charity in the long term. She was enthusiastic, funny, quirky, maybe a little bit eccentric and cheeky. She was known to sneak a chip or two off your plate."
Secretary of Oatley Lions Club, John Perkins, said Mrs Cornish loved her community. "She has been an incredible presence," Mr Perkins said. "So civic minded and unfailingly generous and kind. Always a twinkle in her eye and a raffle book in hand. Her fundraising efforts coupled with her charm and good humour have had a legendary impact on all community organisations she enthusiastically supported."
One of her two sons, Steve, said there would not be a friend who hadn't been coerced into standing on a corner selling a book of raffle tickets.
"She instilled a strong sense of social justice and moral responsibility," Mr Cornish said. "She had a finger in every pie if not six of them at once. Eventually she received an OAM for fundraising work. Not that she was too fussed about it. When I asked where it was she waved at the cupboard 'over there somewhere'. She wasn't in it for the glory - she just wanted to make a difference."
Mrs Cornish was also a teacher. Her first position was at Mortdale Public School before she transferred to Oatley Public School. Her final position was principal at Hurstville Grove, where she remained until retiring at age 55.
"It was a calling set early in her life that she was going to be a carer and looking out for people, destined to be a teacher," Mr Cornish said. "Her teaching style was unique - utter chaos, fun and the kids thrived. She never followed any of the guidelines set by the department and battled with them till the last day. In fact one of the final letters she received recently was a reply from the department thanking her for her suggestions of how the curriculum could be improved."
Mrs Cornish also had a soft spot for Riverwood Air League, and first crossed paths with Commanding Officer of Riverwood Squadron, Chris Bailey, two decades ago. "I knew her from the old Mortdale Community Centre street parades. We would be marching and she'd always be the first one to come over and say 'have something to eat' and make a fuss over the boys," Mr Bailey said.
"We rarely put our hand up for money but Wendy took a shine to us. She went out of her way to help us. Recently we have been trying to raise $150,000 towards subsidising 70 of our cadets to go overseas next year to represent Australia in Normandy for a huge anniversary, and once again we were at the hands of fundraising. Wendy was one of the first to help with great advice. Even when we found out she was crook, she was so bubbly. She loved being connected to the community. I always tried to figure out which group she was with because she tended to be with everybody."
Close friend Carole Wright said Mrs Cornish has left a lasting legacy. "She helped so many people in so many places," Mrs Wright said. "Wendy had what she called her friendship garden. Anyone who gave her a snippet or cutting, she planted it in her garden. As it flourished and grew, she said she would think of that friend every time she walked by the plant. I have some plants in my garden from Wendy. It's a lovely way to remember people who come into our lives and make a difference."
At her funeral service on October 23 at Jubilee Community Centre, Mortdale, her coffin, decorated by her family, symbolised her love for nature. Her wish was to be laid in a cardboard coffin - saving the planet right to the end, her son said.
"She still had so much more she wanted to do - she would've had to live to 150 to pull them all off," Mr Cornish said. "She lived so many lives in this one."
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