Lesley attended the Dunkeld Consolidated Primary School then went on to be educated at the Hamilton High School albeit for a short time as she left school at the age of 14. She began working at the Dunkeld Post Office/Telephone Exchange under the guidance of the Post Mistress Ms Olive Stimson. Many chores were undertaken at the Post Office and Lesley would often refer to being down on her hands and knees polishing the floor, chopping wood for the Post Office fire or even polishing the brass fire surround. As part of the duties Lesley performed as well as answering the exchange phone and delivering telegrams, she would also have to lug very heavy mail bags over her shoulder to the Dunkeld Railway Station. Eventually she would use an old pram that she found at home.
In 1950 an Italian family had become Displaced Persons after WWII, they migrated to Australia and ended up in Dunkeld via Bonagilla Migrant Camp. The eldest child of the family was a strapping 17 year old gentleman by the name of Linneo Bigarelli. A line from Lesley’s eulogy read out by her Granddaughter Kate reads, “I can just picture it, it really is the stuff of romance novels, small town country girl falls for dashing mysterious Italian immigrant, how about that as a plot.” So despite them coming from two different worlds they fell in love.
Lesley and Linneo married at St Patrick’s Church Dunkeld on the 26th January 1957 after becoming engaged at Lesley’s 21st Birthday. The head line in the Hamilton Spectator read, “Unusual Features At Dunkeld Wedding.” The article went on to mention sugared almonds, telegrams from Italy and the bride was a charming figure !! After a caravan honeymoon around Victoria Lesley and Linneo settled in Ballarat in their Sherrard Street home built by Linneo who would go on to be a builder. Most people married to builders say their home is never finished and this was proven to be correct. The home is still in the family today after 64 years. Living 3 doors up from her mother in law was handy for Lesley as meat and 3 veg would never have cut it for her new Italian husband. Santina taught Lesley to make home made pasta and many other italian dishes but especially home made tortellini which is made and only consumed on Christmas Day. This tradition continues as part of every Bigarelli Christmas lunch, it’s not Christmas unless homemade tortellini is served in broth.
Over the years the family grew with the birth of 4 children Stephen, Michael, Susan and Angela. The eldest 3 children went on to marry and produce 7 grand children plus now 8 great grand children. Lesley was lucky enough during her marriage to Linneo to travel back to Italy on 4 occasions and spend time in the North of Italy with many cousins and aunties. They always made Lesley feel welcome, like she was one of their own. This continued with the Italian Community in Ballarat. Lesley was a big part of any Italian Ball or Tombola (Bingo) night that was held. So much so that she served as President of the Italian Senior Citizens club for a period of approx. 2 years. The group would meet every Monday and play tombola, Lesley could also call the numbers in Italian.
She was also a volunteer with the St John of God Hospital Ladies Auxiliary, St Columba’s Mothers Club, St Columba’s Catholic Women’s League, Managed the Canteen at Sacred Heart College for 5 years and did numerous hours of work at the St Patrick’s College Canteen. Lesley was also lucky enough in 1974 to meet and shake hands with Prince Charles at a Civic Reception held for him at the Ballarat Town Hall. Linneo was a committee member at the time for the Italian Catholic Federation. Part of the protocol for the day was that the ladies had to wear elbow length white gloves. Lesley came home from the reception and slipped her white glove off into a plastic bag and there it stayed.
Christmas, school holidays and long weekends were often spent back in Dunkeld at the Dickie home which was and still is situated in the shadows of Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt. Lesley would often say she wanted to be cremated when she died and have her ashes scattered off the top of Mt Sturgeon. This never eventuated but she did have a special place in her heart for her home town.
Lesley had a thing for dates, often ‘her book’ would be referred to for any significant family event not only birthday and wedding anniversaries but what year each of the children commenced their employment, left their employment, started new employment. As well as when each new car in the family was purchased or when the washing machine was bought. There is even an entry in the book for when she purchased her last set of false teeth !!!!
In 2013 Lelsey was given a poor prognosis with her health, but low and behold she proved everyone wrong and made the most of the next four years, filled to the brim with family functions. When she turned 80 the whole family flew to Brisbane and she got to attended her Grandsons wedding on her birthday, the following weekend her family threw her a surprise party. She got to meet 5 of her now 8 great grand children during that time. Her eyes would light up when one of them came into the room asking where’s my baby and give them a big cuddle. Lesley survived Linneo by 12 years but not a day went by where she wouldn’t yearn to have the love of her life back. Lesley passed away on the 19th August 2017 on the day of her eldest child Stephen’s 60th Birthday. She was reunited with Linneo and is buried in the Ballarat New Cemetery – Roman Catholic F Section 1, Row 1, Grave 47.