Joan Rodenhuis-Craig

Her Life

Joan was born in her home at 4 Bowker St, Waratah, Newcastle on 11th April 1922. She was the sixth and youngest daughter of George William Craig and Caroline Amelia Craig, nee Lover.


George Craig was a coppersmith, here is a photo of him at G.H. Varley's workshops.    

Joan went to Central High School and left at age 14.                 

In 1942 she met  Leendert Rodenhuis at a dance put on by the Victoria League in Newcastle. He was in the Fleet Air Arm of the Dutch Navy, and part of the sea-plane flotilla that left Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) with hundreds of Dutch civilians fleeing from the Japanese advance. He had recently been transferred to the Rathmines sea-plane base after being shot-up in Broome. They were married on 1st August at St Phillip's Church, Waratah.


 The Wedding Party: Brother Jack, sister Mary, Leen, Joan and father George. Photos hand coloured by Howard Harris.

Her parents photo outside the church. 

Leen was transferred to Brisbane with the Australian Navy, running supplies to the Coast Watchers in New Guinea. Paul was born in July 1943.


Joan's friends Ethie and Bill Lovell 

In 1946 after the war ended, Leen was transferred to Melbourne where daughter Helen was born on 31 May.


Shortly after in August, we boarded a ship for Holland for Leen's discharge from the Navy.       

We spent more than two years in The Hague. Paul went to kindergarten there.           


In the tulip fields, April 1947.    

Joan visited friends Chrissie and Adele in England and went to the London Olympic Games in 1948. Unusual, as Joan wasn't interested in sport.           


The winter of 1946-47 was the bitterest for many years. Leen got a job with KLM, later he was offered a posting to New York but Joan decided that NY would also be too cold in winter and wanted to return to Australia. We left Holland on 29th November1948 on the 'Volendam' with many Dutch and other European emigrants bound for Australia and New Zealand. This was the first such ship to leave Europe since WWII.

The ticket.   

On the way we stopped in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).   

We stayed with Joan's family at Waratah for about a year while our new house was being built at 11 Beath Cres, Kahibah.    

Paul went to Kinder at Waratah,   


then Kahibah before going to Charlestown Public. Joan worked in the office of Scott's (later David & Jones) for a while and later at Steggles. Leen worked at Burwood mine, walking from home through the bush.  A roof fall injured his back, so he left the mining industry. Leen and Joan bought a general store in Nelson Bay. We moved there in October 1954. Winter trade was slow, so Leen worked a the BHP Steelworks as a labourer.   

In 1956, the Olympic Games were held in Melbourne, and Joan went to see them, staying with a friend.

The summer of 1956 was terrible, it rained most weekends and the customary crowds didn't come.  Joan was very upset and wanted to sell the shop.  It wasn't until October 1957 that it was sold. They bought a house at #14 Bowker St, just five doors up from where she was born. She knew it well from her childhood.

Paul went to Newcastle Boys High School, just at the end of Bowker St. Helen went to Waratah Public then Newcastle Girls High School. Leen worked as a van salesman for Gartrell White Cakes, then Mayfair Hams. Later he moved into the office at Mayfair.

In 1966 Paul married Judy Sharpe.    

They bought a house in Wilkinson Ave, Birmingham Gardens.

Around 1967 Leen and Joan sold the house at Bowker St and moved to Spruce St, North Lambton. In 1970, their first grandchild Meredith was born at Western Suburbs Maternity Hospital.   

In 1971, Paul got a job as a Coal Geologist in Cessnock, so they moved there.  Second grandchild Ian was born in 1972 at the Cessnock Hospital.

Joan loved to travel. They went to Europe, UK, Norway and Canada several times.  Joan was interested in the family history so her travels were often related to genealogic searches. She corresponded with many people in libraries, government departments or churches. These became personal correspondents.

At the age of twelve, Joan acquired some pen-friends who she kept most of her life.  Gloria in Washington State, and Chrissie and Adele in Bedfordshire were life-long friends who she visited on several occasions.

In 1982, Joan and Leen celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary.

Around 1980, Leen was diagnosed with bladder cancer.  Treatment kept it under control for many years, but complications led to kidney failure. He died in Newcastle Hospital on 10th July, 1990.

This was taken in Sydney around 1988.      With Meredith 1990.  With Ian and Meredith

In January 1999, Meredith married George Fannelli.    

Joan stayed in the North Lambton home with daughter Helen. Around 1999, Joan looked up an old boyfriend, Bob Gibson who was widowed. They started seeing each other after sixty years.

In 2000, Paul and Judy retired and bought a yacht to go cruising. They were surprised to hear that Joan and Bob had married! They came up to Southport to visit Paul and Judy on their yacht.   

Joan's first great-grandchild, Meredith and George's daughter, Claire Rose was born on 16th December 2001.


Claire's christening and first birthday.

Brendan was next, born 26th October 2004. His cousin Tom was born just a couple of weeks later on 10th November.  Mia, the last great-grandchild was born on 15th March 2007.


With Brendan, January 2005.

Ian, Kellie and Tom, Oct 2005.

Brendan, Claire and Tom at Claire's 4th birthday party.

Kellie and Mia June 2007

All four at Tom's third birthday, Nov 2007.

Over time, Joan's memory and behaviour became more erratic. She and Bob lived in their separate houses, visiting each other for a couple of days at a time.

Bob died in 2005. Joan needed care, so grand-daughter Meredith arranged for her to enter an aged-care facility.  She proved to be too difficult for that place, so was moved to a more secure dementia unit in Croydon, near Meredith's home. She celebrated her 85th birthday there, surrounded by her grand-children and great-grandchildren.

After suffering a fall, she went downhill rapidly and was taken to Concord Hospital.  Paul and Judy were on their yacht in PNG.  They made hurried arrangements to get back to Sydney, arriving just 30 minutes before Joan died on Saturday 9th June 2007.