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Final cheers to Eileen Massoud: a true Noosa character

HERE’S CHEERS: Eileen Massoud enjoys a beer on the river with Phillip Massoud in the spot where Massoud Park is today.
HERE’S CHEERS: Eileen Massoud enjoys a beer on the river with Phillip Massoud in the spot where Massoud Park is today. Contributed

FROM early life in south Coolum battling to make ends meet from a tin shed to becoming the vibrant heart of Noosa's most famous fishing family - Eileen Massoud led a truly remarkable life.

Born in Nambour on March 30, 1933, the second daughter to Phyllis O'Brien, Eileen died on Christmas Day after battling Parkinson's disease for four years.

But she never lost the spark that made her the light of her family.

As family and friends gathered in Massoud Park last Friday beside her beloved Noosa River, the memories flowed as fluidly as Eileen once danced.

"Eileen had a favourite way of saying cheers when sharing a drink with someone. She'd say (with hand actions), not above you, not below you, but with you - cheers Eileen," said her niece Francis Sadlier (nee Massoud).

That was the end of a moving eulogy at the memorial service for a life so well lived.

Eileen was the second daughter of five children. She had two sisters, the oldest child of the family (the now late) Phyllis junior, and her sister Daphne, and her two brothers Kevin and Barry.

They moved from Nambour and eventually lived in "a tin shack with a dirt floor that was given to their mother by a friend".

Eileen was related to Coolum's pioneering Stumer family through her Grandma Mealing (nee Stumer), who lived in a house up on the hill at the back of Mount Coolum.

"Eileen left school at around 10 years of age to help with raising the other children," Francis said.

Eileen would later tell her son Brett when he wanted something that the family could not afford, how her family had to shoot possums to make ends meet with the bounty paid for their skins.

"Eileen had a lovely singing voice and she often sang at the Coolum school concerts which were held in the hall near the school.

"Weekly dances were held in the hall, people came from everywhere, on foot and on horseback, as only the wealthy had cars or horses with buggies.

"Sometimes the whole family would walk to Point Arkwright to go fishing and sleep out under the stars."

The family later moved back to Nambour. Here Eileen got a job with a local hairdresser and

started training in the local ballroom dancing school.

"In 1950 the whole family moved again, this time to Noosaville, where they leased the cafe across the street from us here, now called Maisie's restaurant, from the Massoud family.

"It was then called the Coolabah Cafe. There they lived in an old house on high stumps out back of the cafe and served up fish and chips and bits and pieces. Everyone had to contribute, with the kids often working into the night."

Dancing was all the rage and Eileen "was the best in town at the jive and the jitterbug".

"She was the girl the men would throw around their shoulders and under their legs at the dances at the RSL hall in Tewantin.

"Eileen was like a live spark, the life of the party, adventurous, exciting..."

As befitting someone who would marry into the Massouds, Eileen loved fishing and was happy to sit with line in hand for hours.

She also loved her waterskiing being towed behind Nobby Reason's ski boat, which was the best on the Noosa River, until an accident saw her ski into rocks.

So she turned her sporting talents to golf and became a local women's champion at the golf club.

After moving to Brisbane for work, Eileen eventually returned to Noosa and married Jack Massoud in 1956, giving birth to their only child Brett in 1962.

At their family home in Elizabeth St they were surrounded by the Massoud clan, with Ivan and Kate living next door with their kids Lynn and Dennis.

Nearby were Philip and Edna, with Michael, Peter and Frances.

On the waterfront were Jack's parents Louise and Bill.

Louise taught Eileen to cook Lebanese food - "because all Massoud women had to know how to cook Lebanese food".

The original Massoud family home, known to all as the "Big House" was home to Aunty Maisie.

"Then there was George and Pearl next to the Big House, and their daughter Maureen, who was Eileen's best girlfriend and partner in crime, and who remained a dear friend and ally throughout Eileen's life.

"They were simple days, working hard, but certainly eating well. There was always plenty of seafood from the Massoud boats, and Jack was a keen hunter in those days.

"Eileen's fridge was always bulging full of pigeons and ducks, as Eileen described, 'fully clothed, feathers hanging out the freezer door' even when the freezer door was pushed firmly shut."

Eileen's own family was never far away either, with her mother Phil living just around the corner in Albert St.

Eileen's work included peeling prawns, picking gladioli at the gladdy farm and looking after the Cooksleys souvenir shop in Hastings St.

"Teewah and the Noosa North Shore was definitely her favourite place on earth and she visited there as often as she could, for all of her life, until her last visit in October just past."

"There were years when they camped in cyclones and the women were up all night trying to hold the tents down and digging ditches to divert the flooding waters, but even in a tent in a cyclone, Eileen could still put a perfectly cooked baked dinner on the table.

"She was an excellent wormer, so she was in charge of catching the bait, and she would do the twist in the loose sands to bring up eugarie, both for bait and to eat grilled over an open fire."

Eileen was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive rapidly advancing relative of Parkinson's, called Lewy Body Disease in 2008.

Her mind and body started to give up on her, she became less and less able to live independently, and in 2010 Brett returned home from Madagascar to live with and care for her.

She died in Brett's arms, just a few minutes past midnight on Christmas Day.


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