WHERE to start?

That was my first response to my editor’s request for a story to mark the passing of Maud Crang, OAM.

She was 102.

I knew Maud for decades. Growing up on the New South Wales side of Sunraysia, and later writing stories with her, and about her.

We always had an understanding. Maybe it was because I came from the same side of the Murray. But it was probably more because I learned very early on to respect her formidable intellect, and never to doubt her eidetic memory for the history of Wentworth, and the families who lived there.

She was, to me, a patient teacher who wasn’t adverse to picking me up on grammar’s finer points when I deserved it, but she also became a friend.

In fact, she was a friend to many people. You learn a lot when you have lived more than a century, and Maud was more than happy to share if you took the time to ask.

She was, up until the last time I saw her, as sharp as the proverbial tack, and retained a formidable memory.

To try and catalogue the achievements of her long life would take pages, so I have restricted my recollections to those best remembered by me.

Most notably I was there in 2015 when she turned 100, marking the occasion with a story that dubbed her “a living treasure.”

“Wentworth’s Maude Crang is also a ‘living legend,’” the story continued.

“Not her words, but those of the residents of the ‘town on two rivers’ where she is adored.

“Maud has lived a full and eventful life but is probably best known in more recent times as the nonagenarian who has mastered the technology of the email, and for being the author of two (later to be three) books on Wentworth’s historic houses.

“As sharp as ever, Maud can remember a lot about her town’s history without having to consult another source.”

The story ended with the simple line: “She is a remarkable woman.”

In 2016 Maud opened the 131st annual Wentworth Show, and as a long-serving Wentworth Show Society Inc. member and supporter was honoured for her contributions and commitment to the local group.

She was presented with “a plaque of appreciation by the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW on behalf of Wentworth Show Society Inc. at a special morning tea…”

“Maud has a long history with the Wentworth Show Society and the Wentworth Show in general…”

It was a family affair. Her father W.B. Crang had been show secretary for decades up until his death in 1946.

Maud’s other community interests included playing the organ at her church, as well as being the church’s treasurer, The Girl Guides, the Birthright organisation, singing in local choirs, and she had a long association with the Country Women’s Association.

One of our favourite stories together coincided with the centenary celebrations for Wentworth St Ignatius School in 2011.

“She may well be well into her nineties, but Wentworth’s Maud Crang can remember quite clearly her first day at the town on two rivers’ historic St Ignatius School,” I wrote.

“She also can clearly recall just how much she had wanted to go to school with her siblings before she walked through the gate for the first time as a seven-year-old in 1922.

“I was so excited. For years I had been watching the other students, including my older brothers and sisters, in the school playground through holes in the fence,” she said.

“At last she was able to take part, rather than just observe.”

Then there were the stories that marked the release of her three books detailing the histories of Wentworth’s historic homes and buildings.

“The Wentworth Historical Society stalwart, and tireless cataloguer of the river port’s colourful days of old, is continuing to delve into the often murky depths of the town’s history,” was how I recorded it.

“In her indefatigable search for lost nuggets of valuable knowledge, Maud has amassed an amazing amount of information on the town’s many historic homes and buildings.

“It was this rich seam of history that she mined for content.

“The first two books catalogue the histories of private residences, but this third instalment concentrates on a number of Wentworth’s public buildings, some still standing, some not.

“Among those standing steadfastly in the present, and featured in the book, will be familiar to anyone who visits the town regularly. They include the post office, courthouse and police station.”

All three efforts were major fund-raisers for one of her favourite organisations – the Wentworth Historical Society, based at the town’s Shire Council library.

Maud was a keen and active member for many years.

In 2013, one of two new units at Wentworth’s Murray House was named in Maud’s honour.

The story read: “Residents of the home are predominantly long-time residents of Wentworth, or the surrounding  grazing area.

“They are people like the town’s matriarch Maud Crang, who was honoured at the recent AGM and dedication ceremony for two new units, having one of them named in her honour.”

Maud accepted the honour with her usual humility, but she was just a little tickled pink too.

Maud Crang did not just live a long life, she lived a long, worthwhile life.

And yes, I was fortunate to be able to call her a friend.

Maud was part of the very fabric of Wentworth, a fabric that is now torn for all time and will never be truly mended.

Goodbye Maud. You will be missed, but never forgotten. Not just by me, but by the many, many others who respected you, and who treasured your friendship.

Maud died last Sunday, and was laid to rest in the Wentworth Lawn Cemetery yesterday.