Libby was immersed in family life but always interested in the world beyond it. She was a gifted artist, a shrewd, clever and original critic, and it was always a pleasure to hear what she made of what was happening in politics and society. We talked about history and science, art and philosophy, and the last conversation we had was about Pope Francis, of all people. She admired Francis of Assisi and was pleased that this new pope had chosen to adopt the eccentric saint’s name. We shared our separate experiences of visiting Assisi, how beautiful it is, and reflected on the exploitation of the saint’s virtues. As someone with a Catholic background but a non-believer, she was hopeful that things might improve in the church with a man who seemed genuinely concerned about the welfare of the less fortunate people on the planet. Perhaps the abuse of children might be properly addressed. I was surprised, and also moved by that. Somehow it seemed to signal that quality Libby possessed of both intense immersion in the personal and her concern for the wider world. Her love for her own children propelled empathy for other children.
Because of this humanitarian concern she was motivated to help other families, and took up studies in Social Work at the Blue Mountains TAFE College, and became involved in work with members of refugee families who had been settled in the Mountains after seeking asylum from war in their own countries.
She was compassionate and thoughtful in her judgments; she possessed a gravity that compelled her listener; she was someone whose opinion you felt was always worth hearing.
I will treasure those conversations we had over a number of years, and I know so many writers who have visited Varuna, as well as her family and those friends in the community who knew and cared for her, will remember the many fine qualities she possessed, from her beautiful smile to her shrewd sense of humour, her deep intelligence, her grace and her dignity.