How baby Madeleine was united with her 100yo great-grandmother despite coronavirus

When Elisa Severino held her great-granddaughter for the first time, it was an emotional and special moment for four generations of women in the family.

The aged care resident, who has dementia, turned 100 years old in April — a milestone she marked at an Adelaide aged care facility, during the early days of Australia’s coronavirus lockdowns.

Daughter Tess Di Francesco said her mother had brought great joy to her family and friends in her century of living, and always wanted to receive a letter from the Queen on her 100th birthday.

“[She was] strong willed to survive the Second World War, the famine and the depression,” she said.

“She came to Australia for a better life and she was very staunch.

The birthday had to be celebrated behind a window because of COVID-19 restrictions, which only allowed one visitor at a time.

Elisa Severino’s family celebrated her 100th birthday on either side of a window.(Supplied)

Tess Di Francesco was on the same side of the window as her mother, and said despite the physical distancing, it was still an occasion to be treasured.

“It was difficult, but at least there was some way that they [extended family] could be with her on the day,” she said.

“My sister’s three children came with their partners and their children as well, and my three girls and their partners and children.”

Mrs Di Francesco’s daughter Lisa — who is named after her grandmother Elisa Severino — was seven months pregnant at that time.

Lisa said it was important to her that her grandmother be able to meet her baby girl.

“Because of COVID we were not sure it would be possible,” she said.

A closeup image of great-grandmother Elisa Severino.
Great-grandmother Elisa Severino celebrates her 100th birthday.

When Elisa Severino’s great-granddaughter Madeleine was born two months later at North Eastern Community Hospital’s maternity ward — next door to its aged care facility — the staff found a way to bring them together.

“I am so thankful to the hospital that they were able to meet,” Lisa said.

‘It was very heartwarming’

Lisa is very close with her grandmother and said the moment the centenarian held her family’s newest arrival was “something that I’ll never forget”.

“I am one of six grandchildren and we would always go to [my grandmother’s] house and she would always give us sweets,” she said.

“We are thankful that she is still with us, and lucky she has seven great-grandchildren.”

A newborn baby.
Baby Madeleine’s mother says she is glad her daughter will have a photo of the special moment.(Supplied)

Despite visitors to the maternity ward limited to two per day, the meeting was possible because the residential care facility and the maternity ward are located at the same complex.

The hospital maternity ward’s clinical manager Emily Judd said the restrictions have been tough for all families.

“The residents had milestones that they reached and visiting was restricted over there,” Ms Judd said.

“They were waving at people through glass windows and we were doing the same with our new babies here and holding them up to the glass.”

Four generations of family smiling at the camera.
Elisa Severino with her daughter Tess, granddaughter Lisa and great-granddaughter Madeleine.(Supplied)

Ms Judd said while it was nice to be able to help Elisa Severino’s family, the occasion also brought a smile to the faces of staff members.

“This is a beautiful story, having everyone here,” she said.

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Once ‘clutter and junk around farm sheds’, these 100yo horse-drawn carriages are getting new lives

Restoring a part of Tasmania’s history is a labour of love for Rick Anderson.

The National Trust volunteer painstakingly restores historic horse-drawn carriages bit-by-bit at his Launceston home.

Mr Anderson says his skills as a sign writer come in handy for the important task.

“I still like to work with paint, I still like to create things and I always will,” he said.

The carriages were rotting away until Mr Anderson got his hands on them and returned them to their former glory.

The carriages Rick Anderson restores are often in a sorry state when he finds them.(ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

He’s restored three historic carriages so far and has now started work on his fourth.

Mr Anderson said the carriages, which are all at least 100 years old and take hundreds of hours of work, were in a sorry state when he found them.

“They’re shocking … some of them are really bad,” he said.

Matthew Smithies from the National Trust agrees.

“We had a dead possum on one seat, we had wheels that had entirely rotted through due to being on damp ground,” he said.

‘Clutter and junk’

The work is a test of Mr Anderson’s skills.

“It’s a boost, a real boost to the way you are and its good to get all my old tools out which has been laying around new for years,” he said.

“Each day I just come out and do a bit more and then I do a bit more and then before I know it you’ve just got a carriage.

Rick Anderson uses a screw driver to scrape debris off an old horse-drawn carriage he is restoring
Rick Anderson says it takes hundreds of hours to do one restoration.(ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

Mr Smithies said the carriages helped tell the story of Tasmania.

“They represent the early colonial period in Tasmania which is obviously incredibly important — that’s when a lot of agriculture got developed,” he said.

“Probably 50 years ago they were just clutter and junk around farm sheds, so we’re incredibly lucky to have them.”

Preserving Tasmania’s history

Mr Smith said Mr Anderson was playing an important role in preserving history.

“The conservation project that we’ve undertaken with these is critical,” he said.

Mr Anderson said he was happy to play a part.

“If I can do just a small part to preserve this then so it be,” he said.

The restored carriages are taking pride of place at Clarendon House in the state’s north.

Three horse-drawn carriages lined up on grass outside an old sandstone building
If Rick Anderson didn’t restore these carriages, they’d be “clutter” in farm sheds around Tasmania.(ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

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