Sophia Jasper Crosby is often in my thoughts and prayers. As a close friend of my maternal grandparents, she was very much a part of my earlier life. A woman of rural manners, the daughter of Christian missionaries, and the widow of a soldier from The Great War, Sophia was the most assertively British Australian I knew. She was imbued with a deep respect for the sacrifices our armed forces made in service of country. A nationalist, and a strong supporter of the British Empire. She taught me a lot about the British tradition, which was ironic in a way since she did not have an exclusively Northern European heritage.
Sometimes a little judgmental, Sophia expressed the manners of another age. A special aunty figure she preferred the diminutive Crossie to the more formal Mrs Crosby. Crossie’s long connection with our maternal grandparents was the foundation of a special link. She was one of us. When our grandparents passed on she became a revered elder, our link with the 19th century.
Crossie spent much of her adult life commemorating the sacrifices of fallen soldiers. Working from a cluttered cottage in Marrickville, dominated by the smell of paper, cardboard boxes, and glue, each year she produced thousands of red crepe paper poppies, and artificial laurel wreaths. The laurel wreaths, decorated with a ribbon that read “Lest we forget”, were placed at cenotaphs and monuments on important days of remembrance. The red poppies were sold for people to wear on Armistice Day now referred to as Remembrance Day.
Read Crossie’s story in my new book Beyond Borders, hopefully, published in 2021 when the publishing industry arises from its COVID19 depression. There is a short account of Crossie in my already published work Seen and Unseen: a century of stories from Asia and the Pacific.