by PAT VELTKAMP-SMITH
Musicians and music lovers mourned with the Dominican community the passing in September of Sister Mary Gertrude, OP. 

She was a professed sister for 77 of her 97 years, a talented music teacher and an empathetic and skilled counsellor in her retirement.

She would be among the longest serving music teachers in the Institute of Registered Music Teachers of New Zealand, of which she was a Fellow.

In her 20s, Sr Gertrude achieved Teachers and Performers Licentiate Diplomas from Trinity College and the Royal Schools of Music in both piano and singing.

Born in Milton in 1919, she was one of five children of John and Alice Fox, all of whom have predeceased her.

Sr Gertrude was taught music at St Catherine’s College in Invercargill by Mother Mary Borromeo, OP and later studied singing in Dunedin with Bertha Rawlinson.

Professed a Dominican nun in 1939, she began her teaching career soon afterwards, gaining a reputation as a highly respected and accomplished teacher of piano and singing, exacting and meticulous.

But she was loved for the close personal interest she took in all her students from those beginning to those she presented for their licentiates.

As well as music, Sr Gertrude taught economics and commercial subjects at secondary schools and when she retired to Invercargill undertook a raft of counselling and social work with Victim Support, the Citizens Advice Bureau and Lifeline.

When she went into Calvary care, a dedicated phone line was organised for her room so she could continue with her thrice weekly work for Lifeline.

Callers might have been surprised to know that “Sally,” an empathetic listener who gave succinct advice, was an elderly nun living in care.

Learning of her passing, Matthews Tyson, Australian founder of the St Cecilia School of Music, said the loss was very real.

“She represented to me an era of high moral, educational and social St Mary Gertrude, OP
Accomplished music teacher dies standards, part of that Dominican commitment to excellence which made their teaching of art, music and drama so very good, unequalled,
never surpassed.’’

Sr Gertrude received an Invercargill City Council award in 1995 for community services in education and cultural fields.

She will long be remembered for her talent for teaching, her ready wit, her smile, a sense of humour and a kindness that never failed.

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