December 20, 2017
Lady Bjelke-Petersen – a former Queensland Senator and widow of the State’s longest-serving Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen – has died aged 97.
The former politician, who earned respect from both sides of politics, died in Orana on Wednesday afternoon surrounded by family after suffering a recent stroke and fall.
Lady Flo, as she was popularly known, was born Florence Isabel Gilmour on August 11, 1920.
The woman who later became famous for her Classic Country home-style recipe books actually started life in the city.
She was the eldest of two daughters of James Gilmour, a Brisbane accountant, and his wife Florence Low.
Lady Flo grew up in New Farm and began her schooling at New Farm State School.
She then went to Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School but after two years decided to take a 12-month public service special course.
This led to a job in the Main Roads Department, where she worked for 15 years, from 1937 to 1952.
Lady Flo was interested in politics from an early age, becoming a member of the Liberal Party.
While working for the Main Roads Commissioner, she met the then-Country Party Member for Nanango (later Barambah) Johannes Bjelke-Petersen.
Joh, then 41, and Flo, 31, were married at the Fortitude Valley Presbyterian Church on May 31, 1952.
The couple moved to Joh’s property ‘Bethany’ at Kingaroy. The marriage lasted nearly 53 years, until Sir Joh’s death in 2005.
The couple had four children: Margaret, Ruth, Helen and John.
In 1984, Joh was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George for services to Parliamentary democracy. Sir Joh’s title made Flo “Lady Bjelke-Petersen”.
Flo became “Senator Flo” in 1981, a position she held until 1993.
During her time in the Upper House, she was not afraid to cross the floor to vote against sales tax increases or stand up for Queensland.
She continued to live at ‘Bethany’ until recent years when she shifted into Orana.
Religious faith was always a large part of Lady Flo’s life.
She was involved in church groups as a younger person in Brisbane, and converted to Lutheranism after she married Sir Joh.
This faith never left her, despite the trials and tribulations of her husband’s – and her own – political careers.
She told an interviewer in 1994:
“I look forward at the end of this life to a life beyond the grave, a life of reunion with those of my dear ones who have had faith and trust in their Lord and Saviour when that time comes … if there’s judgment I rely completely on Jesus.”
Related article: Tributes Flow For Lady Flo