In a few days it will be 57 years since I married Carole Ann Tapsell at All Saints Church, Booval. We were married for almost 54 blessed years before she went home to the Lord in October 2019.
I have often reflected on the privilege the Lord gave me to enter into the Tapsell family of Carl and Eileen with their daughter Carole, pictured in this blog. The photo was taken when Carole was a teenager. They arrived in Queensland from India in 1947 and settled into the Booval area. They arrived with virtually nothing having left most of their belongings with Carl’s crippled sister in India.
Carl was one of the world’s best field hockey players having won Olympic Gold medals at the 1932 Los Angeles and at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. He transformed the hockey scene in Ipswich and led the famous Hancock’s team to winning many successive Grand Finals. He is still considered the best player in his position in Hockey world history. He later changed to playing golf and became a champion player in that sport as well.
He was a thorough gentleman and only increasing deafness prevented him from making more of an impact on society. However, some of the young hockey players he coached eventually became international players and one went on to coach both the Australian and English Olympic Hockey teams. A fine Christian man!
Eileen was a brilliant pianist who often accompanied very talented singers. She was also the church organist and helped lead the spiritual revival that was experienced at Booval in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. She was very much involved with the Girl Guides Movement which Carole also became heavily involved with.
She was also a praying woman and many people came to their home to be prayed for by Eileen. That included young people and ministers and missionaries.
After Carl passed away she eventually came to live with Carole and me in the Deanery in Armidale. Here again there came a whole group of people of all ages to talk with her and to be prayed for by her. Everyone in the parish called her “Gran!” for she was like everyone’s gran.
Well how did Carole and I get to meet? I had begun to teach Junior church and Eileen played the organ for us. That meant going to her home to prepare for the coming week. There I met this tall black haired beautiful schoolgirl who was wearing black stockings as part of her school uniform. Apparently I called her “licorice legs” because of the black stockings. I knew that she was a winner at eisteddfods for Art of Speech and I often heard her speaking on the local radio station on a Saturday morning when they featured leading young people in the city. I also knew that she was a champion athlete, basketballer and swimmer and had won the GPS Sprint in Brisbane against all the leading athletes from all the GPS schools. She was the school’s Sports Champion and undoubtedly a leader of girls.
Sometime later Carole joined the Youth Group I was leading and I began to notice more of her excellent qualities. She was a fun person and willing to take part in any activity [and to make it fun.] I was quite touched when she made a decision to follow Christ at a camp when I was absent and she waited to tell me first because I was the Leader of our group. Another thing that touched me deeply was an incident at another Christian camp. We were having a BBQ on the beach and one had to line up in one of two single files to get the food. I noticed that there was one young fellow there with severe physical disabilities so I decided to line up to get his food first then go back later to get my own. I did this and as I arrived back with the food I discovered that Carole had had exactly the same thought and had also got food for the fellow. I thought ”What a beautiful, thoughtful, caring girl! who puts the interests of others above her own.” From that moment I think I was hooked. I have realised in retrospect that Carole always put the interests of others above her own, right throughout her life. What a woman!
There came a time when I thought I should tell Carole how I felt about her. So one night I plucked up courage and said to her, ”Carole I think I’m beginning to like you!” Hardly the stuff of romantic novels, but for me it was a very deep expression of the love I had for her. She seemed to be pleased with that romantic outburst, so soon after I was able to tell her that I loved her. She told me that she loved me too. I felt I was the most privileged man in the world to be loved by someone so very special and to be so welcomed into the wonderful Godfearing Tapsell family. Most of our courting days were held in the company of other young people as we enjoyed activities or day trips together.
In 1964 there came a change as I went some 1650 km away to Melbourne to study at a Theological College. Carole was very faithful in writing and keeping me up to date on my family. However, I was able to come home for a couple of weeks in August and we travelled to Monto to visit my sister and her husband and family before returning home on 22 August. Towards the end of our journey, we stopped outside the small town of Esk to rest. I had realised that Carole had committed herself to our relationship and was not dating anyone else. I felt that we should both know what the future had in store for both of us, especially as I was about to return to Melbourne and would not see Carole again until the end of the year. After sharing for a short time I found myself saying, “ Carole, what would you say if one day I asked you to marry me?” That certainly wasn’t in my mind when we had stopped! Imagine my joy when this beautiful, precious, delightful creature replied, “I would say “Yes!” My next question that came so naturally was, “Well then, will you marry me?” I think I knew what her answer would be as she replied, “Yes, of course I will!” At that place, in the space of less than an hour, my life was forever changed! I had someone to love and to share my life with, for the rest of our lives.
When we later drove on to Carole’s home her parents were delighted with the news. We bought an engagement ring a few days later!
I was so glad that we got engaged that day, for only a few days later my father collapsed and died a week or so later from a brain tumour. It was great that both my parents had been able to welcome the news of our engagement. After my father’s funeral, I drove my mother to Melbourne to stay with my sister and brother-in-law until the end of the year. We had a sad drive home as we were coming home to an empty house. Carole and I were able to get some time together before I returned to Melbourne for 1965.
Then came 22 January 1966 and my wedding to Carole and a few days later we journeyed to Melbourne where Carole began a Phys Ed job in one of the outer Melbourne High Schools. Carole taught there for 3 years before we returned to Qld where I was ordained on 21 December 1968. We ministered in St Stephen’s Coorparoo parish from 1968 to 1972 until I was appointed Rector of Mt Gravatt where there was no church building and only a tiny congregation. Our children Sarah and James were born in 1971 and 1973 but Carole proved to be the ideal Rector’s wife and it was through her loving caring nature that many young and older people were attracted to the church so that we were able to get built a new brick church and a new Rectory in less than 6 years.
Carole’s father Carl passed away in 1975 and Eileen went to live in a Church retirement village in Brisbane. However, Carole and I moved to Armidale in 1978 when I was appointed as the Dean of St Peter’s Cathedral. Our youngest child David was born in Armidale a year later and we had the joy of bringing Carole’s mother, Eileen to live with us in the Deanery. We had a marvellous time in Armidale until 1988 when I accepted the position as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. Carole’s mother was unable to move into the accommodation in Sydney but we managed to get her into an Anglican Retirement Village where she had a wonderful ministry as a prayer warrior and as a musician. She passed away in 1993 while I was on a speaking tour of New Zealand.
This isn’t perhaps the time to write of the ministry Carole and I shared in Brisbane, Armidale, Sydney and in the United States over many years, especially in Florida. Nor of the enormous joy our marriage, ministry and family life has been to us. My main purpose here has been to talk about the tremendous privilege the Lord had given me in being welcomed into the Tapsell family almost 59 years ago and experiencing their love and support over all those years. However, with the death of my dearly beloved Carole in 2019 that wonderful godly family came to an end. Who would have thought that a family of 2 adults and a 4 year old child arriving in Australia from India in 1947 with virtually nothing, would have had such an impact on so many people around the world. They certainly had an impact on me and I praise God every day for the privilege I have enjoyed in becoming part of the Tapsell family and especially for their success in bringing up the most beautiful, gracious, self-giving, lovely daughter to become my wife 57 years ago. Oh, so greatly, greatly missed, every day!
[Of course, the Tapsell family didn’t really end, for through Carole there are now one son in law, 3 grandchildren, 4 great-grandchildren and 3 step great-grandchildren of whom Carl and Eileen would have been enormously proud.]
“To God be the glory. Great things He has done!” [And continues to do, every day!]
BlogNo.456 posted on Monday 16 January 2023