SAD LOSS: Pall bearers at St Mary’s Church for the funeral of Gabrielle Mary Madden.
SAD LOSS: Pall bearers at St Mary’s Church for the funeral of Gabrielle Mary Madden. Inga Williams

Inspirational life of a city trailblazer

HUNDREDS of mourners packed into a sweltering St Mary's Church yesterday to bid farewell to an Ipswich woman who was a role model and inspiration to many.

Some would recognise Gabrielle "Gaie" Mary Madden as the mother of Member for Ipswich West, Jim Madden, but long before Mrs Madden's son made a name for himself, his mother was educating the children of Queensland.

The current Ipswich Mayor is just one of many to have benefited from the tutelage of Mrs Madden during her teaching years.

Mrs Madden passed away at St Andrew's Hospital on January 18, aged 93.

In the eulogy, grand-daughter Heather Gibson told the gathering that her grandmother's talents as a teacher could be traced back to her first days in the job.

"In 1941, she was appointed to a one-teacher school at Aramara, west of Maryborough.

"It had 45 students over eight classes, all in one room," Ms Gibson said.

"And so began a challenging and significant period in her life, which she recounted many times to her children and grandchildren.

"Her living conditions were very poor, the school was in a dilapidated state and was in an unsuitable site.

"With typical determination she set about tackling each problem. Using her talents as a teacher, a musician and an organizer, she gained the trust of the community. Due to her efforts, the school was moved to a better site, and modernised."

Gaie eventually secured a transfer back to her home town of Ipswich, where she taught at St Mary's School.

She met soon-to-be husband Brian at the St Mary's Hall dance in 1946. They married in St Mary's Church later that year.

Their first son Peter was born in 1947, followed later by Dennis, Brendan, Anne Marie and Jim.

The family faced hardship in 1956, when an old coal mine under the house collapsed, shifting their Woodend home off its stumps.

Gaie became the first full-time female teacher at then-Christian Brothers College in 1960.

She stayed there until her retirement in 1987.

Another of her proudest achievements was working alongside her well-known son, Jim, to re-establish the Anzac Day ceremony on MacGregor St at Woodend.

"Her life was not always easy, but she tackled each problem as it came along with dogged determination and belief in the power of prayer," Ms Gibson said.

"She has been described as a trailblazer, especially for women, and an inspiration to others."



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