The wife of former foreign minister and NSW premier Bob Carr has been farewelled at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral after dying in her husband’s arms.
Helena Carr, 77, died in a hotel room in Vienna, Austria, on October 26 after losing consciousness as a result of a brain aneurysm.
In his eulogy, Mr Carr said the death of his beloved “H” was still raw and described his final moments overseas with his wife of 50 years.
“We seemed to be at peace in our 50-year partnership. We accepted without admitting it that our time would not be forever,” he said.
“We were in a resting place that meant we were happy to see the other one happy. No partner could have smiled more than she did.
“As we walked across Vienna having fun on that last day, that was where our 50-year journey had taken us: to a kind of calmness and wisdom where it ended so suddenly, so cruelly cut off.
“We are such stuff that dreams are made of, and our light rounded off with a sleep.
“That left me to say, my friend, as co-conspirator in this half-century collaboration, thank you my lucky star, my little friend.”
Mr Carr described his wife as someone who not only fitted in well with domestic and foreign leaders but was an accomplished businesswoman in her own right.
The Malaysian-born woman was involved in a number of businesses before in 1984 taking over the security division producing postage stamps at Australia Post.
Parallel to his own political rise, Mr Carr also described how his wife helped him secure successive terms in government, including being in advertisements for Labor.
“In our marriage, she was the CEO, CFO, the chief strategist and the financial planner – which left me to be the entertainment director,” he said.
“She loved the play, the humour, the personality of politics. She got to know my colleagues … All this was part of the human comedy that fit her smiles.”
Mr Carr also described when in 1971 after watching a film that his wife said he was her “lucky star”, but he said she had gotten it the “wrong way round”.
“You are my lucky star … to this day, its my most beautiful compliment I have ever received, that this angel took a bet on me,” Mr Carr said.
“You’re a very astute mob, our friends in this cathedral. You know she got it the wrong way around … Helena was Bob’s lucky star.”
Education Minister Jason Clare, on behalf of the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, said Ms Carr was the “steel in Bob’s back” and “whip smart”.
“I was fortunate to spend a little time with Helena Carr, to know her kindness and her cheekiness … and overflowing goodness,” Mr Clare said.
“Helena and Bob were each other’s worlds. Perhaps it’s fitting then the last opera Helena saw in Vienna was the Elixir of Love … A story of real love.”
The requiem mass was presided over by Father Frank Brennan, who described Ms Carr as a “peacemaker” who never pushed herself forward.
Current and former political leaders, including NSW Premier Chris Minns and deputy premier Prue Car, were in attendance at the service.
Former prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Keating were also present, as was federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek.
Following Ms Carr’s death in October, Mr Carr issued a heartfelt statement in which he described her as the “light of my life” and “little friend”.
“On Thursday we walked in autumn weather through Vienna, had lunch with two Australian friends, walked some more and went to the opera,” he said.
“She was full of zest and jokes as we walked back to our hotel … Within 20 minutes she referred to strange back pain, then a headache and nausea.
“Our 50-year partnership ended in the hotel bathroom when she sunk into my arms … Her eyes closed for the last time while I begged her not to leave me.”
Ms Carr was born in Malaysia before emigrating to Australia to study economics at The University of Sydney. The pair met in Tahiti in 1971.
Mr Carr, NSW’s longest-serving premier, was on a stopover from the US at the time. He said his reason to go on was “for her”.
During the eulogy, Mr Carr recounted his wife’s journey to Australia as one of six children born to a mixed Chinese-Tamil family in Taiping, Malaysia.
Ms Carr was educated by Irish nuns at the French-run Order of the Infant Jesus, before being accepted to school in Sydney in 1965.
For the pair’s second meeting, Mr Carr said he took his future wife to a Labor party fundraiser in Lane Cove in Sydney’s Lower North Shore.
“I was showing off by having her come to see me chair meetings of young Labor... She knew exactly what she was getting in for,” he said.
“Once, she shyly confided in me that she speculated with girls in school once that it would be interesting to be married to a politician.”