Featured Member – Joan Songaila
Pipis Between the Toes
The simple things can bring us our heart’s delight – in Joan’s case it was feeling abundant eugaries beneath her feet on a shining Gold Coast beach. In 1990 she moved here for good.
Born in New Zealand, Joan attended Auckland Girls’ Grammar School then trained in physiotherapy at Dunedin. She holds the distinction of being the first ever NZ Women’s Water Ski Champion in slalom and tricks. Joining forces with her first husband, who was a layout coordinator and photographer for the New Zealand Herald, Joan’s own writing life began when she composed a weekly column for the newspaper’s Saturday Magazine.
At fifty years of age she was left a widow. Then a cruise on Australia’s largest inland ship the steamer ‘Murray Princess’ introduced her to the ship’s Lithuanian accordion player, Joe Songaila. He wooed her with an American civil war ballad which he played whenever she appeared on board; but it was not ‘Aura Lee’ that caused the other passengers to smile and Joan to blush. The tune had been given different words and made famous by Elvis as ‘Love Me Tender’.
Joan became Secretary and Joe the President of the Lithuanian Community group; a job which for the first time necessitated her learning the language in order to help dispossessed Baltic refugees when they arrived on the Gold Coast.
Missing the connection with words brought her to the GCWA, then in its infancy at Pacific Fair. Those who enjoy the sandwiches at GCWA afternoon teas might be interested to hear that way back circa 1991 Joan was the instigator of this tradition with her own speciality: cheese, vegemite and lettuce on wholemeal bread.
Joe’s ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease means Joan is a full time carer these days. Though it took ten years, she has written his life story titled ‘Journey to Paradise’. She also convenes the Southern Short Story Group twice a month and finds the act of facilitating the efforts of others inspires her. At the moment she alternates between reading attendee Fay O’Neill’s ‘The Stockinger’s Daughter’ (which makes her cry) and another member John Clark’s ‘Tales from Down Under’ (which makes her laugh).
Joan’s life journey has taught her that the most important thing in life is love, and that the more you give, the more you get back.