A 95-year-old woman with dementia who died a week after being shot with a taser by police in her Cooma nursing home is being remembered as a devout Catholic of “deep faith with a beautiful soul.”
Clare Nowland, who attended daily Mass until five years ago when she entered care, was the matriarch of her large faith-filled family, including her brother, a priest of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
The mother, grandmother and great-grandmother devoted her life not only to her family but to the community.
She was a member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul for over 55 years and helped establish her local Vinnies store.
She also volunteered weekly at the Sir William Hudson Memorial Centre, helping feed elderly residents.
Born in 1928, she lived through the Great Depression, World War II and the COVID-19 pandemic but couldn’t survive the 17 May encounter with police after sustaining critical injuries.
She was shot with a taser, a stun gun used by police to incapacitate violent criminals, at the Yallambee Lodge aged care facility after she was found armed with a steak knife.
A policeman has since been charged and staff and residents are being supported by trauma counsellors.
Her death not only shocked and angered the tightly knit Cooma-Monaro district but made headlines around the world, including in The New York Times and the BBC.
Parish priest of Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church Cooma, Fr Mark Croker, said she was a popular parishioner who loved her faith and receiving the Eucharist daily.
He said despite the tragic circumstances surrounding her death, it was how she lived her faith and her incredible life of service that should be remembered.
“Throughout her long life her faith was always so important to her, she held it since she was a child and prayers came automatically to her,” he said.
“She loved to receive Holy Communion and being visited by a priest at the nursing home.
“She was also a daily communicant until she went into care about five years ago.
“I said a bedside Mass as her large family held vigil beside her, just days before she died.
“Her eight children and their families were taking turns speaking to her in hospital right up until she passed away.
“They say the last of your senses to go is your hearing, so we know she could hear us.”
He said her passion for helping others saw her volunteer in the local community for more than five decades.
“She was very active in St Vincent de Paul and helped set up the local Vinnies store, which still operates the way she set it up many years ago, so she was a very smart lady,” he said.
“At least one day a week she would also go to a local nursing home and help feed the residents.
“She was such a wonderful witness to her very large family, who obviously had a great admiration for her and had a deep impact on their lives.
“No way would you ever pick up that she was anything but a beautiful soul with deep faith—that’s the lady who everyone knew.”
Mrs Nowland was one of twelve children, had eight children herself—Michael, Denis, Bede, Gerard, Jenny, Lesley, Kerry and Gemma—and was blessed with more than 60 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
She lost her husband Kenneth early in their marriage, and raised her family with the support of her community.
Her sense of adventure was well-known. She celebrated her 80th and 85th birthdays by going skydiving.
Following Mrs Nowland’s death, the family released a statement expressing their profound love and affection for their mum, nana and great-grandmother.
They thanked, “Cooma, the wider region, in fact, the whole country and around the world for the outpouring of support for her.”
Her life will be celebrated at a requiem Mass on 13 June, celebrated by long-time family friend Fr Mick McAndrew.
A 33-year-old senior constable, Kristian White, has been charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.
The policeman, who has been suspended on full pay, will face Cooma Local Court on 5 July.