Lutheran matriarch and former Queensland Senator Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen died late last year, aged 97.
The widow of the late former Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, she had been a resident at Lutheran Services’ Orana Aged Care at Kingaroy in the state’s southeast since 2014. At Orana, Lady Flo played the chapel organ in church services right up until the final weeks of her life. She also was a keen Scrabble player, attended the home’s Bible study group and frequently led mealtime grace.
Born Florence Isabel Gilmour in 1920 in Brisbane, she was baptised Anglican but later became active in the Presbyterian church. She married Johannes Bjelke-Petersen in 1952 and became a Lutheran.
After 10 days of ill health, Lady Flo died surrounded by family on 20 December 2017. She is survived by her younger sister Margaret Gilmour, her children Meg, John, Helen and Ruth, 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Her daughter Dr Meg Noack said more than 2500 people attended the state funeral held in her honour at the Kingaroy Town Hall, including Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Premier Palaszczuk said that as a Senator for Queensland from 1981 to 1993, Lady Flo ‘brought her passion for family, faith and cooking – yes, those famous pumpkin scones – to the fore’.
Pastor Mark Doecke, who preached at the service, said ‘her Christian faith was what shaped her indelibly’. ‘She would want you to know that’, he said. ‘I doubt Lady Flo would want us to go on about what a wonderful and giving and loving person she was without saying it all came as a gift from God … The gospel of Jesus Christ informing her life, her service and her politics.’
Dr Noack said her mother was a ‘cheerful, caring and tireless worker’. ‘She was a true woman of strength, centred around her faith, her family, and her community’, she said.