Hundreds of friends and family have gathered in Sydney to farewell philanthropist and socialite Lady Mary Fairfax, whose motto was ‘Touch Every Life with Good’.
“She was full of life, energy, exuberance, love and joy. People were drawn to Mary Fairfax,” her son Warwick Fairfax, 56, told mourners at St Mark’s Anglican Church in Darling Point on Friday.
The widow of publishing magnate Sir Warwick Fairfax died at her famed Sydney waterfront home Fairwater on Sunday, aged 95.
“She threw herself into all of life, her charity work,” Warwick told the congregation.
She also knew how to hold an “incredible party”.
“No one had parties like Mary Fairfax.”
His sentiments were echoed by eldest son Garth Symonds – from Lady Fairfax’s first marriage to Cedric Symonds – and Australian businessman Charles Curran AC who also delivered eulogies.
Mr Symonds said being in his mother’s presence left one with a glow of knowing one was in the company of a remarkable human being.
“Mum was not necessarily an easy person to have as a mother,” he added.
“She was forceful in her views. She often did not like her children disagreeing with her. She did not like it if you talked too much. She looked you up and down when you walked in the room to see how you were dressed. The safe move was to dress in a suit 24/7.
“She knew she was privileged to live at Fairwater. She liked to share Fairwater with others and to use Fairwater for events to raise money for her favourite charities.”
Mr Curran said Lady Fairfax “made a distinctive mark on Sydney and the wider Australian community”.
He pointed to very generous contributions she made to St Vincent’s Hospital, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children and many other charitable and community organisations.
All three eulogists spoke of Lady Fairfax’s love for her second husband Sir Warwick, who was the “love of her life”.
“Mum was a widow for 30 years. She missed him always,” said Mr Symonds.
She loved all her 10 grandchildren.
Warwick Fairfax said while there was the public side to his mother, there was also a private side known only to her family and a few close friends.
“She was caring, loving, loyal, encouraging and supportive. She would say, ‘I believe in you, right or wrong’. Yes, she would tell you what she thought and what her opinion was. The conversation could become quite active,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, she was for you. Her children loved her dearly. How could you not want to be around someone so full of life and love?”
Children Garth Symonds, Warwick Fairfax, Anna Cleary and Charles Fairfax said their mother’s health had deteriorated rapidly before she died at the family estate in Point Piper on Sunday night.
Lady Fairfax was to be buried in a private ceremony on Friday afternoon.