Marcia Downing Osterberg-Olsen, 1929-2022.
A long-time resident of the Hartley Valley, Marcia was a most remarkable woman who undertook everything - including three separate careers - with passion, humour and excellence over her 92 years.
She was born in 1929 to parents William James and Myrtle Elizabeth McEwan, known as Jim and Beth, of "Birrilee". Whilst growing up on the apple orchard and farm at Little Hartley, Marcia would 'scribble away' under a wattle tree. She took piano lessons and did well in local gymkhanas.
At about 16, Marcia McEwan became a cadet journalist for the Lithgow Mercury newspaper. She moved on to the Lachlander and Condobolin and Western Districts Recorder and in 1950 was working for the the publishing house of K G Murray editing True Romance, True Stories and Digest of Digests.
At 21, Marcia left Australia with a plan to get to Fleet Street by disembarking at Naples then touring Italy and France by bicycle. She lived in Italy for almost three years working on TV and films -doubling for female leads doing horse riding stunts and sword fights (she was very good at fencing) at one time acting opposite Errol Flynn. Italy gave her a life-long love of art and Opera, especially Puccini.
Marcia was determined to see the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. A chance meeting got her a job in a Thames-side fun fair as a gaudily dressed handler of African Pythons. She travelled to the USA where she wrote for TV studios in Los Angeles, before returning to Australia in late 1953.
In 1955 she married Wagner Osterberg-Olsen. The marriage produced two daughters, Eugenie and Vashti.
Her output as an author was hugely prolific from the 1960s. She mostly wrote under her maiden- name producing children's books but also wrote Romantic Fiction under at least seven additional aliases, both male and female. By the 1970s she had moved on to her passion for Australian History including a multi volume Australian Explorers series for Bay Books.
By the 1980s Marcia lived at "Billesdene Grange" a significant colonial house, that began its life as the Royal Garter Inn in 1831, later becoming the residence of Thomas Henry Neale, the Magistrate at Hartley Courthouse. She could tell you details about the historic features of the property, including the famous Camellia Aspasia Macarthur which came from the Camden Park nursery, the venerable old oak tree planted in the 1870s to celebrate a family marriage, and the rare early cool room for apple storage dating from the 1930s.
In 1989 Marcia was admitted to the Bar. She worked as a defence Barrister, travelling the Local Court circuit around the Central West into her 80s, retiring in 2010. On those trips she was accompanied by her beloved Siamese cats - Tosca I and then Tosca II.
Marcia also put her historic research skills and passion for heritage to good use, serving on the Cemeteries Committee and the Lithgow Branch Committee of the National Trust, and the Mount Victoria and District Historical Society. She wrote an updated history of Hartley in 2008, which can be read online. She organized projects such as the restoration of the lone grave of Eliza Rodd at Glenroy completed in 2011, the 'Crossing of the Blue Mountains' exhibition at the Mount Victoria Museum in 2013 and more recently preparing a history for the Moyne Farm Cemetery Conservation project in 2018.
Like many others in the Hartley Valley, for many years Marcia had also been negotiating with Transport for NSW about the intended Great Western Highway upgrade which will affect part of the land and setting of her beloved "Billesdene".
She still lived independently on her farm and was working on a new book, written from the perspective of Trim, the cat who accompanied Matthew Flinders in the circumnavigation of Australia. She was taken ill very suddenly and passed away in Lithgow Hospital on February 7, 2022.
Others have described Marcia as a force of nature, a woman with strong views and opinions, but also as an inspiring mentor with a wonderful personality and a warm heart. She could be both formidable and engaging.
Marcia was a first-class woman of her times - interesting, talented, independent and fearless. It was a privilege to know her and experience her profound, inquisitive, intellect. Little Hartley has lost a great contributor and a significant presence.
Marcia was farewelled by family and friends at a funeral service held at Leura on February 17, 2022.
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