He calls her Redlands’ own Edith Piaf, a woman who used her singing to escape from a troubled life.
Former Redland councillor Joe Ross said the musical world would be one sparrow less, with the death of Lesley Spedding on July 1, aged 94.
Joe took care of Lesley in the final five years of her life, initially transporting her from the mainland ferry before she moved to live in his granny flat from her Macleay Island home.
Her final months were spent in hospital and at St Vincents, Kangaroo Point.
Joe said Lesley was well known among nursing home residents and seniors where she performed at least two concerts a week under her concert group Belles and Beaux.
The group included Joe Ross, Graham Richter, accompanist John Poole and Carol McKinney.
Venues included Killara Place Cleveland, Seventh Day Adventist Victoria Point, Prinz Willem Birkdale Legacy RSL, Cleveland Gardens, Salford Waters Victoria Point, Moreton Shores RSL Thornlands, Rosevale Court Victoria Point, Nandeebie Alexandra Hills and Marabello Victoria Point.
Joe said Lesley took to the stage as a child, and could recall singing Eency Weency Spider before the death of her mother when she was aged four.
She moved to live with her paternal grandparents and was happy to leave them at age 15 to live with her mother’s parents.
“She says she sang all the time. It was her world of make believe from an early age. Singing was an escape – a way of surviving the pressures of the day,” Joe said.
Joe said Lesley was a gifted seamstress and ballroom dancer and had worked as a tram conductor and in varied other jobs in Sydney.
“All of her work led her back to singing. The tram she worked on for example was at Bennelong Point near the Opera House,” Joe said.
Joe said he met Lesley during U3A Footlites Theatre rehearsals which were held at the Star of the Sea church where he was parish president of pastoral care.
“But it was Belles and Beaux that really gave her a name. It started with one concert in 2005 and before you knew it, the bookings went mad,” he said.
Lesley also sang with the Brisbane Light Opera Company, Savoyards and Concertium.
“I have 240 hours of recordings of her singing. She had about 100 one-hour concerts ready to go,” Joe said.
“Themes were rock and roll, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day and gypsy. She made all the costumes, the hats, the umbrellas, everything.”
Lesley’s funeral will be held at 9.30am on July 14 at the Great Southern Garden of Remembrance, followed by a celebration of her life at the Cleveland RSL at 11am. She is survived by four grandchildren.