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2012 Kellion Medal Recipients

70 Years

Ernest Langsford Arthur


Diabetes entered the Arthur family line when Ern's grandfather, Thomas married Jemima Willis at Giles Corner SA in 1880. Jemima suffered from diabetes, which in turn affected five of her twelve children. One of them was Ern's father Samuel, who died in 1927 at the age of 41.

Ern was born at Riverton in 1913 and was only 14 when his father died. After the sale of the family farm at Giles Corner, his mother Marguerite and her four children moved to Hawthorn where Ern attended Unley High School. He gained his Leaving Certificate and intended to train as a teacher but with the Depression imminent and jobs scarce he left school before completing his final year and in 1929 at the age of 16, he joined the National Bank of Australasia.

Ern began as a junior in the Prospect branch but in 1935 he was transferred to Clare where he met Joan Stacy. They were married in 1938. Ern and Joan were in Wallaroo when World War Two began and being in a reserved occupation he trained as a signaller. Later, he was allowed to join up but the compulsory medical examination revealed that he had diabetes and he was barred from active service. They were transferred to Whyalla in 1943 where Ern's health deteriorated until on the advice of a Polish physician
Dr Jacob Zimmet he increased his insulin dosage. This marked a turning point in the management of his diabetes.

In the context of this ceremony it is interesting to note that Professor Paul Zimmet AO, who is the Director of the International Diabetes Institute and Professor of Diabetes, Monash University Melbourne, is the son of Dr Jacob Zimmet.

Ern's diabetes was never allowed to stand in the way of a full and active life.
At various times he played table tennis and bowls and after they came to Adelaide in 1957 Ern and Joan developed an avid interest in birdwatching. Ern was an accomplished pianist and wherever they went they involved themselves in the life of the Methodist, then the Uniting Church. Ern retired in 1975 at the age of 62, after which they made two trips overseas, visiting the UK, Europe and Israel. Ern produced superb needlepoint tapestries which are much valued by family members.

In 1993 Ern and Joan moved to the Uniting Church's Resthaven in Westbourne Park. Ern was a living testament to a lifetime of conscientious management of diabetes, a task in which Joan also devotedly shared. In 1992 he was presented with a medal by Diabetes Australia in recognition of '50 Years Victory over Diabetes' and in 2002 his 60 Year medal and today Ern's family will be awarded the 70 Year medal on his behalf. Ern passed away on 28/7/2012.

Elma Frieda Sommers


Elma was born in February 1931 and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March 1941. She had the mumps prior to this and often wondered if that was the trigger. She was only 10 years old and spent the best part of the next two years in hospital. No one, especially Elma's family ever really expected her to live for any great length of time. At the age of 81 years, she says "I reckon I've still got a few more years left in me yet!"

After life settled down, Elma went to the SA School of Art and played basketball and tennis. Eventually she met her husband Ray and together they had three wonderful children. Elma never expected to have her own children, let alone grandchildren and now great grandchildren. Ray and Elma were married for 53 years. Sadly, Ray passed away with cancer seven years ago. He was Elma's carer for all those years, and clearly did a great job.

Life got a bit tough after that but Elma's children did everything they could after Ray died. Elma's family tried to keep her at home and they managed pretty well for the first four years, however her sugar levels became unstable and Elma was admitted to hospital many times over the following 12 months. Elma was told she couldn't live on her own anymore. Thankfully her daughter Wendy was prepared to come and live with her as her full time carer.

Overall, Elma has had a pretty good life, there's not much that she hasn't been able to do, and for the most part, not a lot she hasn't been able to eat either. Elma has had high blood pressure, a triple bypass and significant hearing loss. She believes the hearing loss has been the most difficult to cope with, more so than the diabetes. She's very grateful to a lot of people whether they be family, friends or medical staff for their support throughout her life, who have 'kept her going'.

Elma said "much to my family's horror, especially my daughter Wendy, I'm planning to make it to a 100. So I'll see you in another 9 years for my next medal!".

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