Rae Quick and her younger brother Ian grew up in Gippsland and were part of the church communities in the towns where their parents Jack and Dorothy ran small businesses. Rae went on to become a primary teacher and a teacher of domestic science. In the year 1952, when she turned 30, Rae was ‘set apart’ as a Presbyterian deaconess, having completed the three-year training at Rolland House Presbyterian Deaconess and Missionary Training College in Carlton.
Rae’s first deaconess appointment was to St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Colac where I first met her, beginning a friendship that lasted some 65 years. In Colac, Rae inspired a group of young Sunday school teachers to do a minor renovation of the church’s Sunday kindergarten. She also trained and supported the Sunday school teachers across all grades, established a Boys’ Club (Presbyterian Boys Association) and a Girls’ Club (Presbyterian Girls Association) and trained leaders who continued in their roles for many years after she left Colac. Rae was also closely involved in the activities of the church youth group (Presbyterian Fellowship of Australia), taught religious instruction in local schools, and took part in various other organisations.
On one occasion a senior lady from the Ladies Guild asked Rae “Why weren’t you at the Guild meeting today?” to which Rae replied “I was visiting some elderly shut-in members of the congregation.” The senior lady responded with “Hmm, just so long as you were doing something.” Those words “just so long as you were doing something” became a saying between us many times over the years that followed!
Rae did indeed go on ‘doing something’ for others as a deaconess and a teacher for many years. After two busy years in Colac, Rae was appointed by the Deaconess Council to Shepparton, but after two years there she was sought out for a special assignment that combined her deaconess training and her teaching skills. She was appointed to the staff of the then Morongo Presbyterian Girls College on the outskirts of Geelong where she taught scripture and domestic science, and as a live-in member of staff shared in the pastoral care of the boarders.
Rae’s next appointment was as children’s worker with the Presbyterian Department of Christian Education in Melbourne which involved visiting congregations throughout Victoria to help them with their work with children. This meant a lot of travelling around the state.
In 1966 Rae took leave to undertake a six-month study tour of Christian education in churches in the United Kingdom and United States of America. On her return to the department, Rae introduced the use of a caravan to enable her to extend her stay in country congregations, allowing time for more sustained work with Sunday school teachers and the elders of the congregation. During her approximately 10 years with the DCE and her four years of parish appointments, Rae was a regular leader in Easter camps and in the annual summer conferences held around the state, and of course school holiday camps for children. Rae’s quiet and warm personality gave encouragement to many young women who later became deaconesses or ministers of Word and Sacrament when the ordained ministry became an option for women.
After 10 years of the travelling life, Rae returned to teaching at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School in Canterbury where she again combined scripture and pastoral care with teaching domestic science. It was while she was at Strathcona that Rae became involved with Melbourne City Mission for whom she prepared a book of simple, low-cost but nutritious recipes to be used by low-income families.
Rae eventually retired from teaching for health reasons, but in her retirement she continued to ‘do something’ for others, such as teaching English as a second language to new arrivals in Australia and providing a weekly craft activity at Condare Court Aged Care in the Burwood area.
Rae’s nurturing personality was evident in the support and care she provided for her ageing parents and her aunts ‘Blue’ and Jean, and her care for her deaconess friend Jean Sones whom she supported as an unofficial carer with meals, transport and practical assistance during Jean’s battle with cancer.
The last 15 years of Rae’s life were spent at Karana Baptist Aged Care in Kew, at first in her own self-contained one bedroom unit where she continued to provide hospitality and a welcome, but her later years were spent in high care. In the years before her memory, faculties and physical strength failed her, Rae constantly told me when I visited her how grateful she was for the assistance of her niece Helen. She told me regularly, “Helen is marvellous to me. I don’t know what I’d do without her.” Rae was also forever grateful for the care she received at Karana.
Camps and conferences played a large part in Rae’s life. In all those camp experiences she would have sung the grace before meals: “Be present at our table Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. These mercies bless and grant that we may spend our lives in serving thee.” Rae also knew an earlier version of this grace which ended “These mercies bless and grant that we may feast in Paradise with thee.” Now it is time to “Go feast Rae, go feast.”
Rae was privately cremated in the presence of her family. She is survived by her late brother’s family: his widow Alison and their children Helen, Robert, Joanne and Virginia and is lovingly remembered by them and by Rae’s deaconess and teaching colleagues.
Deaconess Margaret Parry