Letters To Anne Frandi-Coory

Excerpt from ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?; A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations Of Defeated Mothers’ 

The following two letters were written by Anne Albert to her niece, Anne Frandi-Coory, following the death of her mother, Doreen Marie Frandi.  Anne Albert died shortly after writing the second of the letters to her niece, but if she had not met her niece at Doreen’s funeral. the two would not have known each other and there is so much about Doreen’s life that her daughter would never have discovered.

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***This page is copyright to author Anne Frandi-Coory. No text or photograph can be copied or downloaded from this page without the written permission of Anne Frandi-Coory.***

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Doreen Maria Betty Anne

Doreen, Maria (mother of the other 3 women) Betty Gentz, Anne Albert

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To my niece, Anne Frandi-Coory [1995 & 1996]

Dear Anne

I just wanted to tell you how much it has meant to me to meet you at this time. It has taken some of the bitterness out of your mother’s death, for me.

Knowing you, I now realise that her life was not all tragedy, for if she was responsible for giving life to someone as warm & caring, & beautiful as you are, it was instead, a triumph.

I intend to type the story of her life as I know it, and will send it to you.

Your mother was a gentle woman. The mental illness took away the potential she had, to be all that she was capable of being. That was the tragedy of her life.

Try to think of her each day for a minute or two; of her life, and your love for her. That way I am sure her spirit will begin to live with you.

Many loving thoughts, Auntie Anne.

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As promised, Anne, here is your mother’s story:

Doreen was such a beautiful child that on the ship which brought her, her brother and parents to New Zealand, a genuine childless couple offered her parents money to allow them to adopt her.  Doreen had a cloud of bright red curls that framed her pretty face.  How different Doreen’s life would have been had the adoption gone ahead.  Life within the Alfredo Frandi family was an uneasy one, so inclined was he to uncontrollable bouts of violent rage, during which he would throw furniture around the room and punch holes in doors.  Often it was his wife, Maria, a pale and nervous woman,  who felt the force of his fists.  Maria was in a perpetual state of acute anxiety and her concern about their lack of money exacerbated this state.  Alfredo was a labourer and work was hard to come by.  They had four children they could barely feed and clothe so any subsequent  pregnancies were aborted  with a knitting needle.  Unfortunately, as the oldest daughter, Doreen was needed to assist with the cleaning up after these procedures.  Maria had no conception of the trauma this was causing her daughter, and which was to haunt Doreen for the rest of her life.

When Doreen was sixteen years old, I was born, but I have never quite known why I was not aborted.  I can only suppose that my mother may have been experiencing symptoms of the menopause and may have been unaware of the pregnancy in  time.  So unexpected was my birth, that an apple crate was all that my parents had to lay me in.  Doreen was thrilled about the new baby and set about lining the crate with material and making it look pretty for me.  This was the beginning of Doreen’s devotion to me which was to last all her life.

Doreen was a very gentle girl and she was a help to her mother in caring for  the younger children, but she loathed house work of any kind.  She was adept at shopping for bargains and was a very good sewer.  Catholicism began to influence her life early on, as it brought her a peace and beauty so missing from her home environment.  Significantly, the nuns at the convent school she attended, recognized her potential for a vocation and one nun, Sister Anne, encouraged Doreen all she could to think about entering the convent.  As Doreen approached womanhood she exhibited no interest in boys or other worldly things, so firmly were her sights set of becoming a Catholic nun.  Alfredo was dead against his eldest daughter becoming a nun and turned the house upside down to show how much he detested the very idea.  This turmoil only made her more determined, and after a short time working in a department store and following her debut at the annual charity ball, for which she made her own stunning gown,  Doreen entered the convent.

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Doreen's debut

Doreen’s Debut in the dress she made herself

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Initially Doreen loved her life as a nun, but after almost a year of doing nothing but housework, she asked if she could train as a nurse.  Her wish was to care for severely handicapped children.  However, her request was greeted with profound disapproval because to actually ask to be able to do what one wanted, was against the very  strict rules of the convent  as well as a denial of the vow of absolute obedience.  Doreen was severely reprimanded and as a result sunk into a deep depression.  The nuns could not understand Doreen’s depression;  they believed that if you had a true vocation faith was enough to protect you from such things.  They then put pressure on Doreen constantly questioning her commitment to her vocation.  Doreen became hysterical which appalled the nuns, and they subsequently demanded that her mother remove her from the convent.  They could not know that bi polar disorder was manifesting itself in Doreen and would consequently ruin her life.

Doreen recovered very slowly from her first breakdown but she was devastated that her vocation was at an end and that she had broken her vow to God.  Doreen did  finally find acceptance and there followed a succession of jobs, which began a pattern set for the rest of her life;  employment interspersed with breakdowns.  In the 1940’s not much was known about bi polar disorder nor were there any satisfactory drugs available at the time.  Doreen was then subjected to countless ECT treatments without anaesthetic which really amounted to torture.  Around this time Doreen’s Aunt Italia, Alfredo’s only sister who was then 70 years of age, decided to take more of an interest in her niece. Italia  regaled Doreen with stories of the privileged   life the Frandi family lived in Italy before they arrived in New Zealand [Italia was born in Pisa, Italy in 1869]. Aristodemo, Italia’s father, had to flee Italy because he was a political agitator alongside Garibaldi, and Italia showed Doreen the fine silver and linen they had brought over with them.  Italia also dazzled Doreen with stories about the family riding in a grand carriage and people bowed with respect for them. Whenever  Doreen  was in the manic phase of her illness, she had illusions of grandeur, and would repeat all that her aunt had told her about their previous  life in Italy.  In these early stages of her illness, Doreen would spend money she did not have and would charge up accounts to her Aunt Italia and sometimes even stay in expensive hotels, all charged against her aunt’s name.  Following these episodes Doreen would then sink into the depths of depression. 

Shortly before the end of the war Doreen joined the Air Force.  It was while she was in  the Force that Doreen met the father of her first child, Kevin. Phillip Coory  neglected  to mention that he was already married with a young  son, Vas, until Doreen informed him  that she was pregnant.  Phillip Coory  believed at the time that that was the end of the matter and he had rid himself of her, but then his brother Joseph came on the scene.  Joseph was a kind and simple man, who did his best to make Doreen happy.  Sadly, his family conspired  against Doreen from the outset; perhaps they did not approve of her good looks or the way the marriage came about.  The marriage ended in disaster;  Joseph was not her intellectual equal and her illness would have been extremely difficult to live with. About three years after their marriage Anne was born and eighteen months later, came Anthony.  Following a severe bout of  bi polar disorder, the children were taken from her and placed in an Orphanage for the Poor in South Dunedin.

The permanent loss of  her children caused Doreen great anguish from which she never really recovered.  In later years she had contact with her daughter Anne, but Doreen was never able to accept that the child did not blame her mother for her abandonment.  Years later, her youngest son, Anthony moved to Wellington to live, but that feeling of guilt never left her and obviously prevented her from having an emotional relationship with her son, although he did make a futile attempt at it.  Doreen and Kevin lived a life of great hardship and near poverty, with Doreen frequently suffering nervous breakdowns, which culminated in her being  admitted to Porirua Psychiatric Hospital.  Kevin had to learn to deal with his mother’s extreme mood swings from a very early age which made his young life intolerable at times.  I have no idea how she coped during those years but I am sure that sometimes  she must have prayed for death, yet through it all her faith in God  never wavered and carried her through until the day she died.

At the peak of her loneliness, Doreen met a man, Edward Stringer, and spent a night with him.  Of course, given her luck, or lack thereof, it ended in pregnancy.  During the weeks after the birth of her daughter, Florence, and suffering from depression, Doreen signed adoption papers for her daughter.  Sometime later, Edward and Doreen met up again, and with the sole intention of getting her daughter back, she married Edward.  Heartbreakingly for Doreen, it was much too late; the adoption was quite legal and binding. Once again life had defeated Doreen and during a severe bout of mania, Edward left, unable to cope with his new wife’s disorder.  From this, there followed a period of dreariness, when Doreen and Kevin lived in a state house at 56 Hewer Crescent Naenae, Lower Hutt in Wellington, and she obtained a reasonably stable job in a factory close by.  At least the disorder left Doreen in peace for an extended period, in which Doreen developed a love of cats, and she had up to six at one time or another.

Kevin started up a very successful restaurant, Bacchus, in Courtney Place in Wellington.  Doreen was employed by Kevin in the kitchen of the restaurant, and she appeared to enjoy her time there.  Sadly her mother died on 10 March 1980, which caused Doreen to have another nervous breakdown.  Following her recovery, Doreen retired from work and moved into a council flat in Daniell Street, Newtown in Wellington.  During this time, she appeared to me to be doing no more than going through the motions of living.  My heart ached to see her like that, with no apparent interest in anything.  Kevin’s bankruptcy and his consequent  permanent move to Sydney, took the utmost toll on her spiritual well being.  Doreen then lapsed into a serious bout of her  disorder, suffering yet another complete nervous breakdown, and she was admitted once again to Porirua Hospital for a considerable time.

I have no doubt whatsoever, that it was not only Doreen’s manic depressive illness that had such a destructive effect on her life.  I sincerely believe that she carried guilt feelings from her experiences as a young girl,  witnessing  her mother’s self inflicted abortions, made worse by Doreen’s Catholic beliefs.       I realized this to be true, with great clarity, when I visited her at the hospital during her final stay there in 1995. She led me out into the hospital gardens, and pointed to a bed of purple pansies in bloom.  “There you see” she told me with infinite sadness, “there are all the little babies”

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Read more here:My Mother Was A Catholic Nun 

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Doreen’s Children….

Kevin

Kevin Coory

Anne and Anthony at first Santa photo session

Anne and Anthony Coory

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Florence – adopted out (now Hudayani Gleeson)

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Vincent aka Bruce 2

Vincent – adopted out (now Bruce McKenzie)

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Doreen’s headstone at Whenua Tapu Cemetery, Wellington

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More:  ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar? – A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations Of Defeated Mothers’

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5 comments
  1. Phillip Peter Albert said:

    Dear Anne,

    my name is Phillip Albert. I am your Aunty Annes 3rd eldest son and therefore i guess you first cousin. I stumbled upon this after looking up something on the internet some 6 weeks ago. I immediately ordered the book through amazon and it awaits my arrival home in mid april. I am currently working away overseas and have just finished reading the two letters that mum wrote to you after aunty passed.I’m so looking foward to getting home this month and reading your book. Some of the stories and the photo’s that i have seen on the website are amazing. I have fond memories of Aunty (your mum) and going with my mum to stay with her in Naenae when I was younger. Anyway cuz…i was reading your letters and felt the urge to make contact….my kindest regards Phil…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. frandi said:

    Hello Phillip, so lovely to hear from you. I was so disappointed when the last letter I wrote to your mum was returned, unopened. Apparently she no longer lived at the address (a shared flat) and I had no way of contacting her. Next thing I heard was that she had died, and again I couldn’t even send her family my condolances. From what I know, your mother’s life was no picnic either.

    I’m glad you knew my mother when she was well and that you have fond memories of her. I met your sister Karen at mum’s funeral; how is she these days?

    Best wishes
    Your cousin, Anne x x (Named after your mother)

    Like

  3. Phillip Peter Albert said:

    Hi Anne, yes you are correct my mums life was no easy road either and she suffered very similar to your mum in a lot of ways. Yes i was aware you were named after mum as it was spoken about once in family circles. I guess thats why I am looking foward to getting home and reading your book. I have found the photo’s from our italian ancestry to be very enlightening and revealing. Some of the stories you recount, i have also heard either from my mum or my big sister karen who mum used to share a lot of information with. Thanks for asking of her…she is well and home now in Paraparaumu on the Kapiti coast. I remember you from Auny’s funeral as mum pointed you out to us. Whenever we have time and are psssing we call in and visit your mum, Aunty Joyce and her son (our cousin) Johnny Rarere who are all buried at Whenua Tapu just outside Porrirua. We try to keep our ties strong with our Frandi side and we had a good turnout from them recently at my sister Lisa’s wedding last year. Actually the last time I was home 3 months ago we received bad news that our cousin Reg Swainson (Aunty Joyce’s son) had passed after a period of illness. Both my sisters and 1 of my brothers went up to the funeral as i was flying the next morning. Anyway Annne lovely to talk to you on this means, I cant wait to see my big sister karen and show her my book when im home in a couple of weeks.

    take care…warmest regards Phil

    Liked by 1 person

  4. frandi said:

    I am so sorry to hear about Reg’s passing. I have only heard good things about Reg & his brother Doug. I would loved to have met them. Although I only met Auntie Joyce a few times, she was always lovely to me and often helped me, when I was a teenager, to find Kevin and mum in Wellington.
    Joyce’s daughter Gillian was given a copy of ‘Ishtar’ by her girlfriend who I met up with in Melbourne by arrangement when the book was first published. Apparently Gillian told her friend, after reading the book, that it helped her to understand her mother better. This “understanding” is one of the reasons I wrote the book and it has certainly created much interest across the globe, especially from descendants of the Gregos and Frandis. It has certainly helped my own children to be more tolerant of others’ hardships, and to have a better insight into mental illness.

    Kind regards
    Anne (I hope we get the chance to meet up some day)

    Like

  5. Hi Anne, my name is Anne Russell, nee Peters. My family lived across the road from the Coorys in Carroll Street many many years ago. My mum, Yvette Peters, who passed away recently, told me about your book, which I would love to read. She also reminded me that Anne Coory used to walk me to school at St Dominic’s in Rattray St. Would that be you?
    I now live in Perth in Western Australia, but I have so many memories of growing up in Carroll St and later in Princes St at the Parkview terraced houses that were owned by my mother’s family.
    I attended the Gathering in Dunedin in 2011, along with my husband and Mum, and saw your uncle Frank Coory (I think he’s your uncle). He was a very close friend of my father, John Peters.
    I look forward to hearing from you Anne.

    Liked by 1 person

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