MURDER MEMOIR: Writing helps daughter deal with dad’s murder

Joan Atherton Hooper has detailed her experiences growing up in Colac in her memoir, Nothing To Cry About.

Joan Atherton Hooper has detailed her experiences growing up in Colac in her memoir, Nothing To Cry About.

A FORMER Colac woman has spoken of her surprise uncovering the background of the murder of her father 75 years ago.

Castlemaine’s Joan Atherton Hooper, 78, grew up in Colac and left the city at 19 years of age.

Her father, Alfred Atherton, was murdered in Ferntree Gully in 1939 and is buried at Colac Cemetery.

His murderer was Morris Ansell, the secret lover of Ms Atherton Hooper’s mother, Dorothy.

Mr Ansell was 19 years old at the time of the murder.

The Public Record Office of Victoria released details of the murder on January 1 this year.

The file was previously restricted from private or public view under Section 9 of the 1973 Public Records Act.

“It was surreal to be there reading the files of my father’s murder,” Ms Atherton Hooper said.

“While I had sympathy for the young man who murdered my father when he was 19, I found in the file he had a history of violence and been in trouble with the police, so my sympathy abated.”

Ms Atherton Hooper was in a Geelong orphanage when she learnt of her father’s murder.

She was eventually fostered back to Colac as a ward of the state.

Her experiences growing up in Colac feature in her self-published memoir, Nothing To Cry About, which she spent four years compiling.

“In my late 70s I feel it’s a time of life when you can look back and feel a sense of having achieved a lot following a difficult start,” she said.

Ms Atherton Hooper left Colac at 19 years of age because she “wanted to better myself and rise above the shadows of the tragedy.”

But she said growing up in Colac produced the happiest times in her life.

“My teenage years in Colac were the happiest of my life because of the teenage friends I made there,” she said.

“We had more freedom in the ‘50s, we had dancing and the Regent Theatre and all those things in Colac at the time and we made the most of them.”

Ms Atherton Hooper, who has previously written extensively for film, radio and theatre, said writing had proven to be a release for her in the midst of the challenge she’s faced in her life.

“Being a writer has been cathartic for me,” she said.

“I’ve been an orphan, a ward of the state, a deserted wife and children later with drug and alcohol and mental issues, it’s been a battle put it that way.”

“But I have a great sense of humour and friendships have been my mainstay and they go right back to Colac.”

Colac’s Janine Mahoney, who has been friends with Ms Atherton Hooper since they were teenagers, said she admired her friend’s resilience and was proud she had been able to release her memoir.

“It’s just wonderful, she’s gone through an awful lot and she’s come through laughing,” she said.

Joan Atherton Hooper will appear at Colac RSL for a function discussing her memoirs on April 30.

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