Dagmar’s Story

Dagmar Blanche Cox

By Kathy Vivian

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.

(above) Tom Worland in uniform. He was killed on the day before Dagmar was born.

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 1942.

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 (buried 12 Jan 1925) and grandfather Gilbert Victor (buried 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.

(above) A happy Laurie and Dagmar Cox on their wedding day 8 June 1946.

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.

(above) Cox family grave after restoration with added inscription to Trevor Laurence Cox – “In God’s Care, In Our Hearts”.

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 (CofE*ZE*51), 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 (buried 19 Augudt 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 complete.

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 exist.

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.

Information supplied by Kathy Vivian.