Monday, September 19, 2011

RIP Sheila Bairstow: A special message for those who knew her.

It was with great sadness that I learnt today of the death of Sheila Bairstow in Perth on the weekend.

Sheila, wife and business partner of PR professional Ron Bairstow, had been battling heart and breathing problems for some years, but continued to a live a full and rewarding life in retirement, often traveling overseas.  She collapsed suddenly and died at home on Sunday morning.

Ron has asked me to pass on the sad news. A personal view here at

Sheila was loved and respected by many people in Townsville, not just as Ron's business partner but also for her work with the Cootharinga Society. She was a journalist of note in WA before travelling east to Townsville with Ron in the 80s, where together they forged a successful business and social life for more than 20 years, before retiring back to Perth to be near family, especially their grandchildren.

She was a generous and happy person in a strong and loving marriage of 44 years; I know this personally because they insisted I stay with them until I found my own place on my return to Townsville in 2002. 

A personal memory for me is that during my stay with them, I learnt of a very special talent Sheila possessed. Every morning after breakfast, she would turn to the cryptic cross word in The Australian (The Times Crossword, rated the most difficult in the world) and finish it completely in 10 to 15 minutes.  Every day. 

As any crossword fanatic will know, it takes an especially sharp and well informed mind to be able to do that. Sheila was certainly the only person I have ever met who could do it.

I mention this because when Ron rang to tell the sad news, he told me that looking around the house later, he noted that the Weekend Australian and The West Australian from the day before lay on the table, both open at the crossword page. And both were fully completed. 

Ron said at least he had the knowledge that she was mentally sharp as ever right to the end, and was spared any suffering of that order. 

My thoughts, and those of all who knew Sheila here in Townsville, are with you right now, my great and good friend.

Vale Sheila. 



  1. Both Sheila and Ron were great supporters of community projects too and many Townsville organisations benefitted from their enthusiasm. Ron and family, I send my condolences.

  2. I last saw Ron in the early 70s, when we both worked at Channel 9 News in Perth, until yesterday, when my wife and I attended Sheila's funeral. Ron read your tribute and created a few more teary eyes in the chapel. While I never knew Sheila very well, Ron and I were close mates in the South-West of WA and later at Channel 9. It was a sad day yesterday, but great to hear how highly-regarded Sheila was by both family and friends. I hope to catch up with the Hon. Ron in a couple of weeks.
    Graeme Hunt