Dagmar Wells is a remarkable woman who has led an eventful,
if often tragic life. This is her story...
On the day after her husband Frederick
Thomas (Tom) Worland (3973, Pte 5th Battalion AIF 1915-16) was killed by a
German bomb on the bloody battlefields of the Somme on 25 July 1916, Annie
Meredith (Deda) Worland gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Dagmar Blanche.
Dagmar was brought up in a house filled
with music. Deda played the piano for silent films and from an early age,
Dagmar delighted everyone with an amazing contralto voice. She won many
singing awards including the prestigious Sun Aria award and had the world at
her feet as a gifted, headlining opera singer, notably Handel’s Messiah in
All of this fell by the wayside when she
fell in love and married Laurie Gilbert Cox of Elsternwick on 8 June 1946.
Dagmar happily embraced married life and was overjoyed to fall pregnant late
1947. Three weeks overdue in September 1948, she was admitted to a small
private hospital in Melbourne. It was during her labour that Dagmar was
informed “she should hurry up as a wealthy and important lady arrived in
labour and would need the delivery room”. That important lady was to give
birth to the fugitive Christopher Charles Skase (1948-2001) on 18 September.
No-one can be certain what transpired next, but Dagmar’s baby was to be
stillborn. She never got to see him, as he was whisked away.
When told of the news, Laurie was
devastated. He asked to see his son but was refused by the nurse who said
“The baby is a monster. It would be too upsetting for you to look at him”.
Not to be dissuaded, Laurie asked to speak to the Matron. Laurie pleaded
that even if the baby was a monster, he was still his son and he had a right
to see him. The Matron tried to placate Laurie, and said it wasn’t possible
because the baby had been “wrapped for disposal”. Laurie won out in the end
and the baby was brought out. Far from being a monster, little Trevor
Laurence Cox was absolutely perfect apart from a bruise on his head. Laurie
arranged for a proper burial and Baby Trevor was laid to rest on 28
September with his aunt Majorie Adeline (bu 12 Jan 1925) and grandfather
Gilbert Victor (bu 6 May 1925). Fate would deny Dagmar the joys of becoming
a mother again such was the pain of her experiences; Trevor would be her
only child. Laurie’s life would end in tragedy after being struck by a car
in 1966 leaving Dagmar a widow.
To add to the trauma, Trevor was never
officially recognised as a person. No birth nor death certificate was ever
issued in keeping with the era. To all but Dagmar and Laurie, Trevor did not
exist. The stigma would remain in Dagmar’s heart until her great-niece Kathy
Vivian decided to close a chapter…
Some years ago, Kathy’s dad Terry Edgerton
decided to locate his cousin’s grave, and though armed with directions from
Dagmar, after walking around the entire Cemetery, was unsuccessful. Terry
contacted the Cemetery Office in an attempt to track down the grave, but was
discouraged and admitted defeat. That was until a few more years passed when
Kathy one day made a promise to Dagmar…that within twelve months, she would
find Trevor and ensure the whole family knew where he was. Dagmar got a bit
teary, gripped Kathy’s hand tightly and said simply “thank you”.
With only Christopher Skase’s date of birth
to go by, it was in August 2005 that Kathy turned to the internet for
information on the Brighton General Cemetery, hoping but not really
confident that somewhere there might be a searchable index of burials.
Instead, Kathy sent a long and moving email to the Brighton Cemetorians Inc.
just when the group was forming. Like so many others, Kathy was seeking
assistance to locate a gravesite and we were happy to oblige. Two days after
sending her email, Kathy was supplied with a map showing the location of the
grave, photos and a list of other family members interred.
Armed with this information, Kathy went to
see Dagmar who is now bedridden in a nursing home in Leopold, Victoria.
Kathy would describe her beloved great-aunt as being “very stoic during
the rough times in her life, but she came as close to breaking down as I
have ever seen her. Not only was her fondest wish granted, that we had ‘made
contact’ with Trevor, but it became apparent that of the four buried in the
grave, only two were recognised on the inscription”. It was then that
Kathy floated the idea of adding the name of both Trevor and his paternal
grandmother Lillian Rose Cox (bu 19 Aug 1969) to the inscription, to which
Dagmar replied “Kath, please, whatever it costs!”.
After what Kathy described as a “sooky”
moment on the phone with her dad, she offered to make a donation to the
Brighton Cemetorians Inc. You had to be part of such a moving story to
understand the refusal; instead, it was suggested the donation go towards
restoring the grave. Further advice was sought from our contact at Heritage
Victoria and this, together with the details of Lodge Bros. we forwarded our
recommendations to Kathy. The was suggested to avoid incorporating a bronze
memorial plaque with the additional details, but to instead continue the
lettering in the existing style; bronze memorial plaques have a place, but
not for use on existing monuments especially those with marble. The total
cost of $3,662.20 did not daunt the family who were determined to ensure a
fitting memorial to Trevor. The work took Lodge Bros. nearly three months to
Dagmar is a very special lady, who despite
the fact she is bedridden these days and has seen more than her share of
sadness in her life, is never short of a smile or a wicked laugh. But deep
down is the pain of the trauma of being denied a mother’s emotional yearning
to farewell a loved child.
It was in December last that the day
arrived when Kathy would show Dagmar a photo of the restored grave; the
tears started and they didn’t finish until Kathy left. Dagmar didn’t want
the picture put away, but rather has it on her notice board where she can
see it all the time. As Kathy said, “she must surely be the only woman in
the nursing home with the picture of a grave on her wall!”.
It was indeed an emotional visit. Kathy
would describe Dagmar as “a woman generous in her praise and compliments.
But today for possibly the first time I saw the real lady behind the bright,
optimistic mask. She spoke of the horror of losing her much wanted baby: of
her naivety in blindly accepting the word of her doctor; of the years of
feeling almost like her baby was something to be ashamed of. (She knew that
her baby was not a monster, but for her whole life it has almost been a
stigma on her heart and she has kept it locked away). Trevor had no birth
certificate and no death certificate, and she had been made to feel by the
doctor and nurses that he was less than a baby. To the world he didn’t
Today - for the first
time - I saw her pain, which today is obviously still as strong as it was
when Trevor died. (Probably because it was not dealt with properly at the
time.) But hot on its heels was the most indescribable joy! According to
Dagmar, and in her own words, we have given her back her heart and that
Trevor was finally recognised as having been a real person; admittedly one
that didn’t get to draw breath. Today was quite a profound experience for
me, and it was almost an honour to have contributed in just a small way
towards bringing her such joy”.
The last surviving of three siblings,
Dagmar is contented that not only has her dear little Trevor been
recognised, but future generations of the family and even casual visitors to
the Brighton Cemetery will wander past the grave and know that her precious,
much-loved baby is buried there.
originally published in The Cemetorian -
Brighton Cemetorians Inc.
(above) Tom Worland in
uniform. He was killed on the day before Dagmar was born.
(above) A happy Laurie
and Dagmar Cox on their wedding day 8 June 1946.
(above) Cox family grave
after restoration with added inscription to Trevor Laurence Cox -
"In God's Care, In Our Hearts".
(above) Cox family grave