Stars pay tribute to Winifred Atwell.- From the Manly Daily, Friday March 4 1983
Pianist Winifred Atwell was given her final accolade yesterday when over 200 people gathered at ST Josephs Church Narrabeen for her funeral.
Many well known entertainers, including, Bobby Limb, Dawn Lake, Esther King, Matt Monro and Peter Colwell attended the funeral to pay tribute to the great entertainer.
Her long time manager and friend, Jack Neri, was also present, along with producer Ron Wills.
Father James Carney, of Bellingen, who had been Miss Atwell’s spiritual guide for the past 15 years , conducted the mass.
Miss Atwell, who died of a heart attack last Monday, aged 69, was described by Father Carney as a deeply religious woman.
During the mass, Father Carney said Miss Atwell had been a great artist and a great lady.
‘Winifred had touched the lives of many people and she was a gentle lady’ Father Carney said
‘I was honoured to be her spiritual director for the past 15 years of her life.’
Father Carney, who first met Miss Atwell after one of her concerts, said he had always been a fan of hers as well as a close personal friend.
‘A week before she died I received a phone call from Miss Atwell and she said she believed she would die soon.
‘I believe she has now found the peace she was looking for.’
Paying tribute to the late Honky tonk queen was Seaforth’s Tommy Tycho.
Tommy said the first worked with Miss Atwell in 1961 on the Revue 61 show for Channel 7 which was hosted by the late Digby Wolfe.
‘We assembled 12 pianos and Winifred and I played two for them- a concert grand each’ he said.
‘The other 10 were upright pianos, played by 10 pianists and we played a medley of her tunes like Jubilee Rag and Black and White Rag. It was a spectacular sight.’
Winifred Atwell was born in Port Au Spain and studied pharmacy as well as classical piano.
Her honky tonk career began by playing for servicemen at an air base in Trinidad and she pursued this style when she moved to England.
She came to Australia in 1958.
‘She was a most accomplished classical concert pianist ‘ said Tommy. ‘I don’t think most people realised that.
‘The last time we worked together was in 1975 at a benefit concert at he Opera House for the Darwin cyclone victims.
‘Her death is distressing and premature.
‘I think also when her house was burnt down and she lost most of her possessions she was on the downhill grade. It was the final thing.’
Miss Atwell had been staying with another show business friend Esther King (ex The Platters) who also lives in Seaforth.
Esther met ‘Winnie’ when she first came to Australia in 1976.
‘Winnie threw a ‘get to know you’ dinner which she had a habit of doing for people who were new to town. We really hit it off.’ Said Esther.
‘We had like a sister relationship. She was a real lady, very compassionate and she never had a bad thing to say about anyone.
‘she’d really had a lot of trauma before she died and I know she was ready when she went.’
Miss Atwell had just bought a unit in Bayview Village which was being renovated when she died.
Miss Atwell’s body will be taken for burial to South Gundurimba near Lismore, NSW, where her husband Lew is also buried.
Winifred Atwell Page