Muse du Jour

My name is Marianne Plumridge. I am an artist of mythic fantasy works and fine art images. I also satisfy my creative muse with sewing, cooking, writing and reading. These are my thoughts and adventures with whichever muse drives me each day. You can find more of my art at

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Location: New England, United States

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Keith Plumridge...a celebration of a life.

Petty Officer Keith Plumridge
(Early 1970s)

Last night, a light winked out in my universe. On Christmas night in Australia, my Uncle Keith Plumridge slipped quietly away. His wife and children surrounded him and gave of their love and strength. Six years ago he was diagnosed with a virulent form of bone cancer and given three years to live. He had those and three extra years to see his boys married, gaining daughters in the process, and grandchildren born. Each day of that time was a gift and he greeted it accordingly – with gusto and laughter. Even the bad days he was thankful for.

Cheeky larrikin, adventurer, storyteller, loving husband, father and father-in-law, brilliantly doting grandfather, mate, pal, buddy, brother, brother-in-law, brother-in-arms, and friend. To those he loved, and who loved him, he was all of the above. And so much more.

Keith appears in many good memories from my earliest years. He was still young enough then to be a playmate to a clingy toddler and suffer all manner of being climbed all over by his niece and nephew. He reckoned we made great aeroplanes when he swung us around or hurled us aloft, accompanied by the prerequisite squeals and giggles.

Our Keith joined the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) when he was approximately fifteen years old, at a time when a Naval forces apprenticeship ran to twelve years of service. He signed up in 1965, or there-abouts, and began to see something of the world. He sent lovely presents home for the family, from exotic places like Hawaii and Suva. I still remember the Christmas that my brother and I received identical transistor radios with our names engraved on them, that had traveled all over the Pacific in his shipboard footlocker, or the blue brocade Chinese jammies that I wore out before their time. Life wasn’t all a bed of roses though, as Keith’s time in the Navy encompassed the turbulent years of the Vietnam War, and he saw combat in those waters. What disturbed him more though was the fatal collision of Australian Naval ship HMAS Melbourne and the American Naval ship USS Frank. E. Evans while on a SEATO exercise in the South China Sea in 1969, when he was a Petty Officer. The ship he was serving on was the first on the scene and the resultant horrors haunted him for some years afterward.

In spite of the resulting trauma, Keith loved the camaraderie of his Naval years and missed them when he eventually left the RAN. He later found new brotherhood in the ranks of the Masonic Lodge. He told me only a year or so ago how much that meant to him.

Once when I was about four or five years old, I remember pestering Keith and giggling a lot while he was trying to hold a conversation with my parents in our living room. Without a mis-step in his conversation, he promptly threw me face down across his knee, hauled out a big black marker and drew a cartoon on my back. Mum reckons it took at least two weeks for it to wear off – with much scrubbing. When I reminded him of this last year, he laughed. He swore it was probably Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse he drew that day, because he was drawing them a lot back then.

Keith’s early 1970s wedding to his beloved Donna was the fairytale of my childhood. It was such a wonderful day, and I remember so well of feeling like a fairy princess in my white eyeleted lace, empire-style dress with the black velvet sash, as I preceded Donna and the other bridesmaids down the isle. I still remember so much of that day – and of the joy.

One of the best memories I have of Keith happened during my own years in the Military. For the last 100 years, one or another of each generation of Plumridges has served in the armed forces: through two world wars, and intervening conflicts. Keith carried the torch in his generation, and I was the first to take it up in mine by joining the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1982. His boys followed suit in joining not only the RAAF and the Royal Australian Army, but the Australian Police Force too. At my 21st birthday party up country in NSW, I had invited quite a few friends from the Air Force Base at Williamtown. While the party itself wasn’t the most successful of events, there was an oasis in it that I regret not partaking of. Late in the evening, my Uncle Keith was seated in amongst half a dozen of my male friends and was telling them stories. That little group didn’t move until dawn. He regaled them with tales from his Navy years and I heard laughter ring out more often than not. Later, the boys told me how wonderful they thought he was. I think he drank them under the table too, but of that I can’t be sure. These Navy swabbies always reckon they can outdrink the RAAFies.

In more recent years, my dad told me of the time that Keith took Donna and the three boys to visit his old ship, the Destroyer HMAS Vampire, when it was finally mothballed for good and turned into an exhibit at the Australian Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney. Keith and family joined a tour of the old girl, and Keith was getting frustrated as the tour-guide got facts about the ship inadvertently incorrect. The guide ceded the floor and Keith gave his family, the guide, and the group the tour of their lives. He took them down many places that were not on the tour and told them operational details as well as many, many anecdotes. Like I said, Keith was a storyteller - a brilliant one. And I don’t think he’d enjoyed himself so much in ages, as he did that day.

So, Keith-ee, thank you for the stories, the love, and the memories: they’ll last a lifetime for all of us.

With love from Eric, Margaret, Andrew, and Mandy…

…and especially me,

The Brat.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Marianne,

I'm so sorry about your Uncle. You wrote a really wonderful biography. What an amazing life he had.

Thank you so much for the link. I've added you and Bob to my blog links too. I'm so happy that you both have blogs. I'll checking them often :)


7:48 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi, Sarah!
Thanks for the kind words about Keith. I kind of feel I followed in his footsteps with my own life story, but he's a hard act to follow, and I can't tell stories for nuts. :-D

Great to hear from you! Yep, linked the blogs the first chance I got. :-D


9:57 PM  
Blogger leslee said...

Sorry to hear about Keith's passing. You wrote a lovely tribute here.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Leslee,

Thanks. Keith was a rare person who enjoyed life a lot. He left behind a lot of love.


8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Marianne,
I was so sad to hear of Keith's passing. He and I served in the Navy together and he was a member of my Lodge when I lived in Nelson Bay. Always good-hearted, with never a bad word for anybody, Keith's good-natured attitude to life will be remembered by many.
Please pass my sincere condolences to all of your family on my behalf.
Kind regards,
Les Dwyer
National President
The Naval Association of Australia

2:30 AM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Les,

Thanks for stopping by. It's so nice to hear from someone who knew Keith way back when. He loved the cameraderie of both the Navy and the Masons - and was deeply attached to both. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. We appreciate them more than you know.

I'll write a longer answer privately and, if you don't mind, pass along your email to my dad, Eric. Dad has stories to share, as I'm sure, do you.

I'm so glad you found my words online. I was hoping someone who'd known Keith, would do so. I live here in the USA with my husband, so it's a little difficult not to be with family today your time, for the funeral.

Thanks again,

2:07 PM  
Blogger Cornelia Read said...

Dear Marianne,

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your Uncle Keith. You have made me get teary here in gray Syracuse, but it's wonderful to see that his storytelling talents live on in you so very strongly.

Hugs to you,


12:25 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Thanks, Cornelia, for your kind words - about Keith AND me. :-)

I spoke to my Mum last night and she gave me the details of the funeral. I'd hoped they'd give him a rousing send off, and the did. The Naval Association members each placed a poppy on the flag on the casket (many of them), the RSL (returned servicemen's League) helped get everything together, and a Salvation Army pastor performed the service. The chapel was tiny and filled to capacity - the remainder of the people had to wait outside and listen to the words over a PA system. There were some 300 people in attendance. It seems Uncle Keith touched many hearts over the years. :-) And that made me so pleased to see so many come to bid him farewell and comfort the family.

THanks again, Cornelia. See you on the Naked Authors list. :-D


12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know another angel is looking over you tonight for a soul that is good can't go unused.

Mum Gae.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Marianne,
I only met your uncle once and that was at a naval Apprentices re-union some years ago. As I was the first Plumridge to become a Naval Apprentice (joined in July 1959) I was keen to seek out my namesake for a quiet chat over a couple of beers.

Very sorry to learn of his passing.

Peter Plumridge, Brisbane

10:14 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hello, Peter,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm very sure that Keith would have remembered you - for the sharing of names and the delight at finding another Plumridge in the Appy program. :-D He was great that way. And there weren't that many Plumridge's from our hometown of Newcastle aside from cousins and a fair few uncles and aunts. My parents found a whole huddle of namesakes in the Victorian wilderness (Wangaratta area) when they moved there nearly 20 years ago. Sigh, time flies...

Meanwhile, thanks for sharing your memory. I very much appreciate it.


11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the beautiful job you have done on the blog. I know that Dad is impressed and be assured that he more than likely knows of what you have done. Secondly, I have read the blogs and your entry about the reading of the books each night until his funeral and know that he would not want you to beat yourself up over the fact that you could not be here with us in Australia. You were always with him in spirit and I have no doubt that he knew that if you could have been here you would have. As I have told my 4 year old son DJ look up to the heavens and pick a star and that is how grandad will be watching over you. I suggest that you could do the same when you feel down.

Be assured the family is coping and we all know that your love is with us as is ours with you. One thing that I believe he would have wanted is for us to remain in contact even though he is now in a better place. At the conclusion of his Eulogy I said a simple ode which is recited at the conclusion of each Masonic Lodge meeting and is know as the Junior Wardens Toast which says,

"Happy have we met"
"Happy have we been"
"Happy do we part"
"Happy to meet again"
"At our next happy meeting"

This little ode relates as well to you as it does to him in that we were happy to have met him, and to have been with him, we part on happy terms (as he would not want us to be sad), we are happy to meet him again in the future on the other side at our next happy meeting, although not for a few years yet.

And I hope that we can remain in contact even though we are on opposite sides of the globe to have our own happy meeting in the future.

All our love
Cousin Jason

P.S I will send you my email from Dad's account so as not to paste it here.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Jason,

How wonderful to hear from you!

Mum and Dad gave me all of the details of the funeral, and I think your dad would be tickled to think he got such a rousing send off.

It's amazing how many people have contacted me over my words about Keith. I'm in a dialogue with Maureen from Adamstown, whom we find we're distantly related too. Dad's been happily digging through family clippings and cuttings to find information for her. So Keith has brought together a lot of people whom we didn't know existed. I think he would have liked that. :-D

As for me: I'm fine. I remember the funny things he did or said and they make me smile. As it should be.

That's a lovely ode. I'll remember it. It's funny: the Freemasons over here are advertising on TV and radio for new members. So weird to hear them. I know that everytime that I walk past the Huge golden doors of the Masonin Lodge on Great Queen Street in London, I'll think of Keith and smile. I bought him a lodge pin from the shop across the street on my first trip there, I think.

Anyway, thanks for writing and all of your kind thoughts and words. I'll look forward to hearing from you over the email.


PS: Tell your mum that Keith emailed me his photo and all of the yours and your wives about two years ago: I wanted them for the family album. Only thing I didn't get was a wedding photo of Keith and Donna. :-D

10:25 AM  

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