A busy, caring life of volunteerism benefited others




2-11-1921 11-5-2012


MARGARET "Peggy" Coburn, who was not famous in the worldly sense but known for her generosity of spirit and volunteer charitable work that was done without seeking recognition, has died at the Epworth Hospital. She was 90.

Peggy, who bore nine children and was immersed in the Catholic Church and its charities, made the first of nine pilgrimages to Lourdes with her parish in 1958.

Born Margaret O'Rourke at Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland, she had a happy childhood with two elder brothers. In December 1941, she married Brian Coburn who had courted her after spotting her through a window at a dance. They had their first child before he went to North Africa with the RAF in 1943.

After the war they ran a poultry farm and had four girls. In 1954, they moved to England, where Brian worked for General Motors and Peggy ran a bed and breakfast business. Four more children were born in England. In 1964, the family migrated to Australia and lived in Gardenvale. The children attended Star of the Sea Convent and O'Neill's College, while Peggy was a manageress at Buckley & Nunn (now David Jones), and was involved in the charities at St James in Brighton.

In 1968, Peggy returned to England with her younger children, and invested in property and ran a successful B&B business the younger four children were sent to Catholic boarding schools. In 1976, she returned to Melbourne, where the three youngest completed their secondary education at Star of the Sea Brighton and Christian Brothers College St Kilda. Peggy and Brian looked with pride on their children's professional success: two are lawyers (one is a senior counsel at the Victorian Bar, the other an adviser to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission), an accountant, two teachers and two entrepreneurs.

In retirement, Peggy travelled often to visit and stay with her children overseas. In her later days she was involved with the Missionaries of Charity, and also worked with others in the community. Eight children, 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren survive her.

Caroline Kenny SC, and Paulette Clarke assisted.

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