The life of Sandgate pioneer Thelma Healy (pictured) and her quest to find the grave of her son Vince who died in the Korean War in 1951 is told in the book Passage to Pusan, written by her granddaughter Louise Evans. Photo: contributed.
The life of Sandgate pioneer Thelma Healy (pictured) and her quest to find the grave of her son Vince who died in the Korean War in 1951 is told in the book Passage to Pusan, written by her granddaughter Louise Evans. Photo: contributed.

Book tells of search for son’s war grave

THE story of local pioneer Thelma Healy, her life growing up in Sandgate in the early 1900s and her search for her son's war grave in Korea has been told in a book written by her granddaughter Louise Evans.

Passage to Pusan is the story of Thelma Healy who was born in 1905 to well-known Sandgate businessman Isaac Benjamin Best.

Ms Evans said, "Thelma was one of I.B. Best's 13 children but her life of affluence and civility took a dramatic downturn when she fell pregnant out of wedlock, was cast out by her family and hastily married off to her beau Mick Healy, who lived in Fourth Avenue.

"Ten of Thelma's 11 children were born in Sandgate and Passage to Pusan follows the life of Thelma as she struggled to love and care, as well as feed, clothe and educate her large brood, mostly on her own, during the depression years and World War II.

"In stark contrast to today's world of have and have more, my grandmother Thelma survived with having less or nothing.

"Yet she did it with unwavering strength, dogged dignity, endless love and wry humour."

Ms Evans said Thelma's life took another tragic turn when her first-born Vincent, the reason she married, was killed fighting the communists in the Korean War in 1951.

"It took Thelma another 10 years of cooking and cleaning, sewing and slaving to save enough money to embark on a harrowing solo sea voyage to Pusan (now Busan) in Korea to find the grave of her war hero son Vincent, who was born in Sandgate in 1926.

"Thelma is an inspiring role model whose voice and values continue to resonate today."

Ms Evans is a North Brisbane born and bred journalist. After graduating from university she embarked on a media career that took her around Australia and the world as a reporter, foreign correspondent, editor and media executive.

"I was given my grandmother Thelma's travel diary of the 15,000km journey she took to Korea in the 1950s.

"I was overwhelmed by her courage, strength, sacrifice, determination and her incredible bravery.

"As a journalist, I had written many stories about incredible people but I never thought for a moment I'd find a story like this in my own family.

"The Healys are Irish Catholic and like to spin a yarn so I heard many stories about Thelma's amazing journey and the very handsome war hero Uncle Vince who, of course, I had never met.

"When I said I'd love to know more, my Aunty Tricia offered me Thelma's diary. I couldn't believe it existed. It started a two-year journey for me.

"I discovered this impossibly strong, heroic man who dies too young and his mother's journey to find peace with his death and find his grave.

"The only thing she had to prove his death was a telegram. When he died she vowed to find his grave and find out how he died.

"When she made the journey in 1961 Korea was still full of unrest and Thelma needed permission from the army to travel there.

"She was so determined and so strong. Thelma said, 'I'm going to do this, come what may' and she did.

"She was a woman ahead of her time, a brave, strong feminist.

"She died when I was seven years old and after learning her story I had great sadness that I never got to know her and how amazing she was but I'm really grateful she kept a diary and that I had the skills as a journalist to tell her story.

"It was a labour of love," Ms Evans said.

As well as telling the story of her grandmother's life, Passage to Pusan also contains details of life in Sandgate in the early years of last century.

An extract from the book reads: "Sandgate was a great place to be a kid in the early 1900s. Nothing was very far away.

"Milk was delivered to the front door in big silver cans. Torpie the grocer, Mr Robbie the barber, Dr Shellshear and the even the picture show were all close by.

"Going to the talkies at the beachside picture show was a big treat.

"It cost six pence to get in to the Saturday matinee and the kids would have a penny each to spend.

"You could buy a lot of lollies with a penny."

To purchase the book visit http://www.passagetopusan.com.

For more information visit http://www.facebook.com/passagetopusan.



Why theft of sperm whale’s jaw was not investigated

Premium Content Why theft of sperm whale’s jaw was not investigated

THE “disgraceful” crime happened after the whale washed up on a South Ballina...

REVEALED: How man’s dumb mistakes ruined illegal gun deal

Premium Content REVEALED: How man’s dumb mistakes ruined illegal gun deal

North Coast man made it almost too easy for cops

‘Too little, too late’: Councillor slams climate policy

Premium Content ‘Too little, too late’: Councillor slams climate policy

COUNCIL will exhibit a climate change policy for 28-days.