By Luke Voogt
After losing one of the most important people in her life, East Geelong mum and British expat Harriet Notaristefano hopes to return to say her final farewell.
Harriet’s great aunt Sheila Palmer died suddenly of pneumonia on September 30 and she hoped to return to England for the funeral on October 27.
“My grandma died when I was 10, so she became like a grandma to me,” Harriet told the Independent.
“She had never been in hospital in her life.
“This was her first trip and, unfortunately, she didn’t get to leave.”
Skyrocketing travel costs for flights and quarantine fees prompted Harriet’s husband Corey to start a fundraising campaign for her to return.
“Anyone who knows Harriet will know that she is extremely family-orientated,” he wrote on a GoFundMe page.
“The chance to grieve with her close family members and the opportunity to say goodbye would bless her deeply.”
Harriet predicts the trip will cost more than $5000.
“I’m not comfortable asking for money [but] for me that’s a lot,” she said.
“I’m very humbled by the people who have donated.”
She was desperate to join her family to say goodbye to Sheila, who she described as a good listener and a humble and generous woman.
“She didn’t need to say a lot but the words she said held weight,” she said.
Sheila attained a degree in analytical chemistry at a time when few women even had that opportunity, Harriet said.
“She was an amazing woman – she just had a presence. I’m incredibly proud that I got to be her [grand] niece.”
Harriet remembered visiting her great aunt often for tea and writing her letters after moving to Australia.
“She led a very simple life – she didn’t have email or a TV; she didn’t even have a microwave,” she said.
Harriet moved to Australia in 2011, six years after meeting Corey online at age 14 “when social media was just beginning”.
Corey joined a group Harriet was part of and she is now forever grateful that she decided to say a “customary” hello to welcome him to the group.
“I couldn’t do life without Corey; we’ve been through hell and back together,” she said.
Their friendship continued for two years and both their parents allowed them to meet in Australia in 2007 when they were 16.
They married in 2011 and after six years trying Harriet gave birth to daughter Gracie, now 18-months-old.
In February, before COVID-19 hit, the couple travelled to England to introduce Gracie to great aunt Sheila on her 90th birthday.
“She was besotted with Gracie,” she said.
“I’m glad that we went over there. We got to go and celebrate with her.”