BRISBANE - I am sad to share the news that Sr Francois Wridgeway MFIC died at St Vincent's Hospital in Brisbane at 3 am last Saturday.
She had not been well at all and was in hospital for some time.
Sr Francois was with the pioneer Franciscan Sisters who first came to Aitape in 1949, being based at Sissano where they had a clinic.
The only doctor in the large Sepik District, the popular Dr John McInerney, was based at Wewak and owned a small Auster plane. He would call at Sissano occasionally to give a helping hand. Tragically, in March 1953, he crashed into the sea taking off from Vanimo and died.
Two kiaps who were with him, Assistant District Officers George Wearne and Ian Skinner, survived. Overloading was a principal contributing factor and crash inspectors also found a hornet's nest blocking the pitot tube so there was no indicated airspeed.
Anyone who spent time at Aitape, Lumi, Fatima or Sissano would know Sr Francois, who was an amazing missionary Franciscan sister.
After more than 55 years in Papua New Guinea she retired to the Delamore Retirement Community in Kedron where other PNG missionary Franciscan sisters also live.
Sister Francois’s father owned Wridgeway Trucking, which in the 1950s and 1960s was one of the biggest transport companies in Australia.
Over the years many people in her family came to assist the Diocese of Aitape. Sadly her nephew, Catholic Franair pilot, Brian Cheers, died in a Cessna plane crash in the mountains behind Aitape many years ago.
Sr Francois was a Jill of all trades: teaching, building chapels and schools and helping at Raihu Hospital.
She was such a great role model for all the young Papua New Guinean sisters.
In her retirement in Brisbane, Sr Francois collected stamps from all over the world, as had her father, and she knew exactly how many she had and where they could be found.