I am standing before you today because fourteen years ago Margaret told me at a funeral we were attending, “You will speak at my funeral.” In usual Marg style there was telling, not asking. What a life well lived we are celebrating here today, the life of Margaret Sasse. Einstein said only a life lived for others is worthwhile. He must surely have been thinking of Marg when he made that remark. There are very few individuals who have given as much of themselves helping children be the best they can be as Margaret Sasse. It was 1976 when I first met Marg when she together with Jean Rigby established the ANSUA Learning Centre [A New Start for the Underachiever] in Brisbane. In 1972 Marg had set up ANSUA Victoria whose goals were to provide assistance for children with Learning Difficulties and Developmental Delays, regardless of their parents ability to pay for treatment. Marg was responsible for the majority of training in what was to become a National Organization. All the centres were registered as charities and were not-for-profit. Marg helped set up branches in Coffs Harbour, Brisbane, Darwin, Sydney and Tamworth over a period of several years. In the seventies the notion that children with learning difficulties could be experiencing difficulties with their neurological organization and the way their brains processed information was tantamount to “witch craft”. It was an era when some Opthalmologists were reported to state “what do the eyes have to do with reading” an era when learning was considered to happen in the book and in the classroom and few people considered that differences in the way the brain processed information might be in some way responsible. There were sections of the community extremely opposed to our methods and as there was no current brain research [unlike today] to back up our work we were called witches in some circles. In the late seventies ANSUA QLD was subjected to a Government investigation on the safety and efficacy of our methods. A Select Committee given the power to close us down was set up. Margaret in conjunction with Dr Mike Ridley and Jean Rigby spearheaded our rebuttal to these claims. It was events such as this that made Marg even more determined to grow the work that she had pioneered. Her dogged determination set her on a collision course with the Board of Directors of ANSUA Victoria when she announced that she wanted to run programs for very young and pre school children, and not just patch them up after they went to school and failed. It
was obvious to us all that signs of future learning difficulties were very obvious in young children , many years before they entered school. It was at this point that GYMBAROO was born and her formal association with ANSUA finished. Her determination was again tested when an action by Gymboree USA to prohibit Marg using the Gymboroo name in Australia was instigated. This was an extremely stressful event that would have caused many others to buckle under the pressure. However it was these brushes with adversity that seemed to be a catalyst for Marg to go on to even greater things I maintained contact with Marg over the years as we shared knowledge gained from our work, she with very young children and I with schools and teachers. We had many lively discussions over the years, and if arguments with persons who expressed a different view point to that of her own she would frequently respond “I’m right and they’re wrong” and that was the end of it. How would anyone here today explain when asked how long it took to get from Melbourne to Sydney? Well Marg would have said as long as it takes to read a Mills and Boon book. In the late seventies and early eighties it was her way of relaxing when travelling on planes and a diversion from her endless reading on child development approaches and treatments. It was for the children that Marg was all about. I vividly remember being in a very mentally exhausting workshop with Marg about 12 years ago and was looking forward to having one of Harry’s great meals and a glass of red wine at the end of the day when Marg said “I have agreed to speak at a Kindergarten tonight there won’t be many people there, maybe half a dozen but you know if only one child gets help from it it’s all worth while” The meeting was an hours drive away. This type of response was very typical of Marg’s generosity of spirit, her boundless energy and her absolute passion to help children. It was service to children that her life was all about. We often joked that it was hers and my attention difficulties and our hyperactivity that helped us forge new ground and gave us a better understanding of how the children we were seeing felt. Over the past 33 years I have been a guest in the Sasse household on a number of occasions. These were very special times. Harry was the rock that enabled Marg to expand and create GYMBAROO into the international organization that is at the forefront of early childhood development programs. Harry’s calm, generous and fun nature provided an amazing contrast to Marg’s often frenetic activities.
Marg, you will be missed in ways too numerous to mention. You have done more than touch the lives of all those who have come in contact with you. YOU have made a difference. YOU have made a difference in the lives of countless numbers of children and their parents. On their behalf I say thank you. Your work will live on through the large numbers of individuals you have trained. On behalf of all those people I thank you for being in our lives, and instilling in us the fire and passion that will ensure your vision for children will survive and prosper. Goodbye my friend, please donâ€™t rest on your laurels in the afterlife. Iâ€™m sure that together with Mary-Lou and Jean Rigby you will help us keep alive the passion we all share for this valuable work.