Beloved portrait of late MercyCare resident returned to family after nearly three decades

19 May 2022

By Contributor

Louise Johnston and Janice Plaisted, pictured with Sister Eileen (right), are reunited with a portrait of the late Kathleen Carpenter close to three decades later. Photo: Supplied.

A Western Australian family have revealed their close family ties to MercyCare’s rich history after they were reunited with a painted portrait of their late loved one close to three decades after her passing.

The pieces of the art puzzle fell into place last month when a portrait of Kathleen Carpenter, former resident at MercyCare’s historic Wembley Residential Aged Care Home, was returned to her family.

MercyCare was contacted by Kathleen’s granddaughter, Louise Johnston, who had hoped to gift the 27-year-old painting to her mother, Janice Plaisted, who was Kathleen’s daughter, for Mother’s Day.

Upon being reunited with the painting, Louise revealed her family’s special connection with MercyCare — her grandmother was, in fact, the aunt of the late Sister Martin Kelly who left an indelible legacy in MercyCare’s rich history, having made a significant contribution to the development and expansion of services at the Wembley site.

During the 1970s, Sister Martin Kelly pioneered the transition away from institutionalised care to the residential care model that continues today, with her efforts honoured at the historic Wembley site with one of MercyCare’s buildings, the Sister Martin Kelly Centre, officially named after her in 2018.

Known by the family as ‘Peggy’, Louise has childhood memories of Sister Martin Kelly, who would often join the family when they holidayed down in Denmark.

The beloved portrait of Kathleen was painted back in 1996 by renowned artist Glen Hughes as part of an exhibition titled The Beauty of Ageing, which also featured five other residents from MercyCare’s Wembley home.

Sister Eileen, who was among the Sisters of Mercy who worked at the Wembley site up until 1997, also has memories of the paintings and even remembered meeting the late Kathleen.

“I do remember her being a very strong-willed lady,” Sister Eileen said.

Luckily for Louise, the painting was located in a storeroom by MercyCare Catering and Hospitality Services manager, Jacqueline Parry, where it has been safely kept for the past five years having previously been on display before refurbishments at the Home.

“I love that Jacqueline didn’t think twice about going above and beyond to find this portrait for Louise and gift it to the family. It’s always a beautiful moment when we can provide these sorts of memories and connections for our MercyCare clients,” MercyCare Aged Care Executive, Phil Martin, said.

Kathleen passed away in 1998 and was a resident at MercyCare Wembley Residential Aged Care Home for seven years.

“This year was my gran’s 24th anniversary so it prompted me again about the painting. From there, I reached out to MercyCare and we’re so thankful when they found the painting,” Louise said.

“I hope that by sharing our story, the families of the residents in the other portraits can be reunited with their paintings.”