Tribute to teacher of ‘enormous generosity and warmth’
MULLUMBIMBY turned out in force last week to farewell Nola McMahon.
Around 200 packed into St John's Catholic Church to farewell Ms McMahon, originally employed as "Matron" at Mullumbimby High School from 1973 until 1992.
Ex-Mullumbimby High School dance teacher Deborah Mills remembered Ms McMahon had a gift for spotting talent in others and helping it flourish.
"She swept us up on the wave of her enthusiasm," Ms Mills said.
Ex-pupil Jane Hansen has had a stellar career in journalism with Channel 9 and News Limited and remembers Ms McMahon with deep respect.
"A great educator died ... her name was Nola McMahon and for the kids of Mullumbimby High she was a force of nature," she said.
"She was not a teacher, she was employed as a teacher's assistant and audio-visual aide or something or other, but she made stuff happen.
"If you longed for the creative, the stage, music, and theatre, she would take that small ember inside you and make it burn bright.
"For the kids who longed to reach beyond the green hills of Mullum, she made you think it was possible. She had a knack for sniffing out the creative ones.
"I heard one young smart arse recently refer to those kids who hung with Nola as 'Nola Nerds'.
"I feel sorry for him. He simply missed that this lady made kids believe their dreams could come true. Want to be in a rock band? She made it happen. Want to be on the stage? She built it for you.
"She was the one that had a bear hug on hand if you needed it. On many occasions she threw open her own home in idyllic Wilson's Creek to students for study and recreation.
"I am warmed by memories of sitting in her beautifully, Mullum-earthy timber-clad lounge room on a Friday night with other class mates and our HSC English teacher, drinking wine and digesting otherwise difficult morsels of TS Elliot. We would otherwise not be studying, but in this environment, Shakespeare, Austin and Orwell became leisure pursuits and I for one count these moments as reason for igniting my passion for literature.
"It was the same home she threw open for our HSC farewell party, a messy affair in some quarters but one she managed with aplomb.
"Her late husband Brian, a teacher from Wilson's Creek, would probably have liked to have had his home to himself, but he endured quietly, probably knowing disagreeing with Nola would get you nowhere.
"I am now surrounded by people who went to pretty impressive schools that cost their parents hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet I have never heard any of them speak of these 'Dead Poet's Society' moments.
"We got them for free and I am forever grateful for the impact Nola McMahon, a woman of enormous generosity and warmth, had on my career and life.
"She died aged 78 leaving behind her son Michael and daughter Alison. RIP Nola. I will never forget you."