Remembering the pioneering spirit of a much-loved GP
TRIBUTES were flowing this week for long-time Murwillumbah GP Dr Betty Marks OAM, who passed away last Saturday.
Dr Marks, 93, was a much-loved doctor who served the community for more than 66 years before hanging up her stethoscope for good in July 2014.
Moving to Melbourne last December to spend more time with her daughter and family, Dr Marks passed away peacefully on February 24, four days before her 94th birthday.
She is survived by her daughter, Sue Payne, and son-in-law Glen Payne, as well as two granddaughters and their partners and two great-grandsons.
"It was a blessing for her, she really needed to go, she was very sick,” Mrs Payne said.
"Her mind was great but her body would not co-operate. She was trying desperately to get to her 94th birthday but she didn't make it.”
A small funeral was held on Thursday in Melbourne for family and close friends, with a memorial service planned for Murwillumbah on April 10.
News of Dr Marks' passing spread quickly through the Tweed this week, where she is fondly remembered as a passionate GP who cared deeply for her patients.
This was evidenced by the more than 200 people who attended her retirement dinner at the Murwillumbah Golf Course in 2014, to which then-prime minister Tony Abbott sent his congratulations for her incredible contribution to medicine and the local community.
Despite her retirement, Dr Marks continued to advocate for her community, joining a protest against the closure of Murwillumbah Hospital's birthing unit in 2015, where she delivered many babies herself over the years.
Community leaders from across the political divide passed on their condolences during the week.
Lismore MP Thomas George, who nominated Dr Marks for a NSW Government Community Service Award following her retirement in 2014, said he was deeply saddened to hear of her passing.
"Dr Betty was a highly respected member of the community, not only as a long-serving GP but as a dedicated community member who spent her time helping the numerous groups she was the patron for,” Mr George said.
"I highly appreciated our association through work and also as a friend.”
Richmond MP Justine Elliot, who spoke about Dr Marks in Federal Parliament at the time of her retirement, also passed on her condolences.
Working as an assistant medical superintendent at Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney as a young woman, Betty met Dr Jim Marks, the son of Tweed Shire's first president, and moved to Tweed Heads in 1953 after they were married.
She soon began the daily drive for shifts at Murwillumbah Hospital. She also joined a local practice and worked at Queen Street Medical Centre for many years.
Mrs Payne remembers fondly growing up in a home with two doctors as parents.
"There were numerous phone calls day and night, with patients also calling in at the home surgery,” she told the Tweed Daily News.
"Special occasions and family outings sometimes had to be put on hold while babies were delivered, operations performed and house calls attended to.
"Much to my embarrassment, Mum was responsible for the removal of doughnuts and cream buns from the menu at the East Murwillumbah Primary School Tuck Shop.
"She was also in demand as a guest speaker on sex education while I was in Year 10 at Murwillumbah High School - mortifying for any teenager!
"However from these experiences and by my mother's example I learnt many things at an early age: how to be patient, polite, kind, forgiving, resilient, adaptable and the importance of having a good sense of humour.
"It has also stood me in good stead to know how to manage tonsillitis, diarrhoea, earaches, fevers and other common ailments after overhearing medical advice given over the phone for many years.”
Mrs Payne said it had been a privilege to share her mum's remarkable journey.
"The stories of her devotion to her patients and her service to the community fill our eyes with tears and our hearts with pride,” she said.
"Our family has been touched by the loving support mum has received from the people of the Tweed over the years, especially since her retirement.
"Many kind messages, cards, flowers and phone calls since her passing have brought us great comfort.”
* A memorial service will be held for Dr Marks at Murwillumbah's All Saints Anglican Church, Byangum Rd, on April 10 from 10am. Please wear something "bright and beautiful” and, in lieu of flowers, a small donation to the Wedgetail Retreat would be most welcome.
DR BETTY Marks OAM will be remembered not just for her incredible 66-year medical career but for her commitment to her community and her involvement in so many community organisations. Tweed Regional Museum was fortunate to benefit from this involvement and for that we will always be grateful. Dr Betty was a pillar of the community and we will never see her like again.
- Tweed Regional Museum