Vale Katie Cleal

Katie Cleal, pictured on 12 November, 2021. Photo by Susie Cunningham.
Katie Cleal, pictured on 12 November, 2021. Photo by Susie Cunningham.

1 November 1959 – 22 November 2022

Katie Cleal was the middle child in her family.  Her mother, Dorothy, is of Welsh origin and her father, Hugh (who passed away several years ago), was Irish.  She grew up with her brother, Mark and sister, Carol, in a very close-knit family.

Whenever they visited Katie’s grandmother in Wales, Katie always made a beeline for her favourite room, a small bedroom with a sloped roof on the upper floor overlooking a pond.  She christened it the Yellow Room as that was the vivid colour in which it was painted.

The family migrated to Australia in 1968 and it became a country they all warmly call home. In the mid-1970s, they moved to Townsville where she and her siblings completed high school and Katie completed tertiary education, training to be a primary teacher.

Katie quickly discovered teaching was her vocation. She found it effortless and hugely rewarding. 

Her brother Mark remembers visiting her classroom one day during the school holidays and was amazed at how organised and welcoming it was. Her students loved her, and it became a standing joke between Katie and Mark that each year turned out without fail to be the best class she had ever taught.

Katie taught in Hughenden, Dysart and Gatton – where she met her husband Chris, who sadly passed away 10 years ago.  Katie often said her proudest and most important achievement in life was raising her two sons, Tom and John, with her beloved husband.

When Katie moved to Beaudesert, she knew this was where she wanted to settle down.  She team-taught with a number of colleagues over the years and mentored many student teachers.  Beaudesert became her ‘village’ and it, in turn, wrapped its arms around her.  She was never able to go to the shops without bumping into half a dozen people she had taught, in some cases the children of her former students.

Katie had a flair for art and music and loved singing.  She led the school choir for many years, was active in BAMS Theatre, and was one of the Bambino bosses.  It was through BAMS that she met Finella Loch who became her closest friend for the rest of her life. Katie and Finella understood one another effortlessly, and took great delight in outrageous, mildly subversive and nonsensical humour.

Finella describes Katie as adventurous, spontaneous, creative and someone who lived life with high energy and the volume all the way to the top.

“She was a whirlwind, and it was both exhilarating and exhausting to be swept along in her wake.  But then, in a moment of stillness, her focus would land on you, and she would make you feel like the most important person in the room.  Because to her, you were. She was genuinely interested.”

Katie was also active in the local choir, A-Choired Taste. She said listening to the choir mastering complex harmonies never failed to cause a shiver to ripple up her spine.

Katie was a lifelong animal lover and found it impossible to live in a house that wasn’t shared by a cat. She leaves behind the sweet-natured and faithful Mr Dribbles who entered her life last year – each loved the other at first glance.

Katie loved travelling and seeing the world. At the end of 2019, she went on a cruise through the Mediterranean, a voyage she enjoyed immensely. She went on several long-distance camping trips with close friends across Australia, trips she really savoured.

Throughout her life, Katie made a huge number of close friends who were honoured to show their love for her, particularly during the final period of her life.

Four days before Katie passed, Tom, her eldest son, completed his Bachelor of Information Technology at the Queensland University of Technology.  To fulfil her final dream, her family and friends brought Tom’s graduation ceremony forward to Kate’s bedside, with Tom in a graduation gown and cap.

Katie amazed everyone at how peacefully and pragmatically she was able to accept the final phase of her life. As she repeatedly emphasised, she had led a charmed life which she experienced to the full and enjoyed every moment of it.

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