Mary Jane Cox White

Profile Updated: August 25, 2009
Mary Jane Cox
Class Year: 1963
Residing In: Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Spouse/Partner: Doug White
Occupation: Retired teacher
Children: 1 daughter
2 grandchildren
3 step-grandchildren
Yes! Attending Reunion
What have you been up to since you graduated:

Let's see... where to begin... Pour yourself a glass of red and with a platter of cheese make yourself comfortable if you have the time...

If you would have told me 'back then' that on my fiftieth birthday I would be on a flight taking a group of Australian high school students to Japan, I would have thought, 'In your dreams, my friend, in your dreams!'

My dream in high school was to study in Paris and to become a French teacher. I was the quiet, shy Latin-lover, lover of foreign languages, sitting at the back of the room and soaking it all in. After high school I did go on to study French (and Spanish, Philosophy, Education) graduating from Marquette University in 1968, the year of the King assassination. I did spend one of my university years ('66-'67) studying in Paris. Upon my return I was no longer that shy girl from Kenosha County (Somers) and I soon married ('68) in Oshkosh where I began my first year as a French teacher ('68-'69.) Man walked on the moon and I had realized all of my dreams.

In the latter part of July, 1971, we migrated to Sydney, Australia where our beautiful daughter was born three weeks later. Come the New Year we moved to Perth, Western Australia with a baby, $50 and a motor cycle (Harley of course, as we had become friends with Bob Harley in Oshkosh. He and my husband were completing their final year of study at the university there.) I continued teaching French in Perth for another thirty years in addition to the three years in the States. During the final ten years I also taught Japanese as I had studied it for six years, completing a Diploma in Asian Studies with honours.

Life was simple in the '70s in our little beach cottage on the seaside of the Indian Ocean. We'd go camping and fishing along the coast down south at Mandurah, Busselton, Dunsborough, and the uniquely beautiful Margaret River where the surfing is brilliant, the wine divine. It was up north of Carnarvon, however, that we camped in a wide-mouthed cave. It was the most primal experience I've ever had. We built a fire in the cave and I cooked on my huge paella pan one of the monstrous fish we'd caught that day just outside off of the rocks. At night we slept on a slab of rock watching the embers' final glow, staring out at a crescent of sky across which a full moon glided changing size and position as the night wore on. The power of the mighty waves crushing, crashing up against timeless rock below, echoed throughout the cave with such force that it seemed as if it would suck us up and out to sea! God how magnificent is creation! With the close of the '70s, however, my husband had become aware that there were many more fish in the sea and our marriage, once built on rock, had crumbled to sand...

The '80s was a period of rebuilding. My daughter had just become a teenager when we knocked down the beach cottage and built a modest brick house with ocean views. I was a 'home owner-builder.' We were delighted with what we had achieved. The cottage in 1973 cost $15,500. We were in a position to make a down payment because of a small inheritance left to me by my paternal grandmother. (Today the property is valued at seven figures.)

By the end of the '80s I had once again found love and by the end of the '90s we were married. He was a university lecturer in journalism, and formerly a surf reporter and lifestyle reporter whereby he interviewed all the visiting rock stars that performed in Perth. Of course we often went south to revisit the surfing spots of his youth. We also did some travel abroad together. I love his easy going disposition. Being married means that his three gorgeous grandsons in addition to my beautiful James and Emma, make us well and truly a proud Grandma and Pa.

We retired with the new millennium. Ten weeks later I was diagnosed with multi system atrophy (MSA) and one year later my husband was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. What to do... In addition to joining a group with my husband to learn about Alzheimer's, I started up a book club which has given me great joy and I initiated an MSA support group. I also busied myself on a project I had started a few years earlier which looked at the history of my street from '73 - '07. It covered such things as the 2000 Olympic torch passing by at the end of our street, and about the gathering there as the sun set on the Indian Ocean to farewell the old millennium, as well as how in the mid-'70s, residents had won the fight to preserve Star Swamp at the other end of our two block long street. The most important part was the PowerPoint presentation of the individual houses up and down the street first as beach cottages, then as modern homes of unique designs most of which were built two on the big blocks of land where only one home used to be. I gave all the neighbours in Mary St. my project on CD last year when my husband had to move into nursing care because of his illness. I had already made the move three years earlier.

Multi system atrophy (MSA) is a neurological condition with a prognosis of 6 - 12 years that comes under the umbrella of Parkinson's. (It is a well known fact that God only created MSA to make people with Parkinson's look good.) What is it like to have MSA? I describe myself as a garden gnome with spirit. I am thankful that my husband had many years ago, introduced me to a variety of ways to use my computer with different programs. I had already been using a Mac at school which had a brilliant program for typing with the three Japanese scripts and another for calculating students'/class percentages. However my husband had nurtured in me a healthy curiosity for what the computer could do. He didn't teach me; he just switched me on. With my MSA support group we produced brochures about our illness that were distributed Australia wide. I had fun creating a poster for disabled kids, and as a fundraiser for Parkinson's, I wrote and illustrated (I love creating visuals) a little book about the flower that is the symbol for Parkinson's: the tulip. It's called 'The Flower that Danced with the Wind'. The computer has become my speech, as I create communication cards for my husband and me to help others understand us better. It's also my life line and has helped me to keep a positive outlook even if I can only type about 6 letters per minute with the help of my WIVIK on screen keyboard with predicted script and my special roller-ball mouse.

However nothing compares to friends (who have been amazing) and family, especially my beautiful, loving daughter who has just returned from a week long family holiday, and is about to book me a wheelchair taxi for book club this Wednesday. Thanks for keeping me company in her absence.

God bless you and yours...
Cheers,
Mary Jane

School Story:

Recollections, reflections of musical productions
Yearbooks, dances and other school functions...
Such fun! Such talent! Such personality!
Whatever became of Terry Moriarity?

Football, baseball, field and track too
Was it a Tom who the discus threw?
Volleyball, basketball, wrestling (and more)
Where a kid named Clete nailed 'em to the floor!

From 'To Kill a Mockingbird' to 'The Grapes of Wrath'
Who could forget Sister Jarlath?
Father Heck said what was a mortal sin... kissing?
In a room full of hormones, who would have been listening?

Athletics, scholastics, delightful aesthetics
The confident, the shy, the comic antics...
We were the good, the bad, the ugly-
We were the class of sixty-three!

Innocence, indoctrination, graduation, 'incredulation'
At the John F. Kennedy assassination.
They didn't prepare us for this, I know.
What would say our St. Joseph Cupertino?

Perhaps "Be students of life, but learn also from death.
Have you forgotten those who took their last breath...
One of you at sixteen snatched up by leukemia
And the sad loss of a father taken by the mafia?"

Teachers, preachers, students on bleachers...
Yes, you and I, everyone features.
How quickly, too quickly precious time goes.
Today it's fleeting memories of our St. Joe's!

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