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Jeannie’s lucky and blessed to have not one but two happy marriages

Jeannie Chitty’s first husband, Kevin Mawson, had always said, “when I go, don’t forget me but get on with your life”.    

“That’s something that always stuck with me, and it took a bit of doing because I was a very quiet person back then,” said Jeannie, 78, of Wangaratta (Victoria). 

Jeanie and Lindsay Chitty
“We have been married nearly seven years,” said Jeannie, with her second husband, Lindsay Chitty

“But I’m not so quiet now, because being with the Solos – the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia Solos Network – they told me that Solos can do anything. 

“There’s no way I would’ve walked up to a bar and ordered a drink before, and that doesn’t worry me anymore,” said Jeannie. 

“Kevin and I used to travel around quite a bit with his work as a plant operator. We went all over the place.  

“My two kids did their schooling by correspondence so we could be with him wherever he was. They still love me after all that time!” 

The Mawson’s have had two motorhomes, both called Mawsons Hut. The first was a “36-foot” converted coach which they used to travel “right around Australia”. They towed a trailer with a car and a boat on it. 

“When I lost my nerve to drive that, we got something smaller in 2004 – a 1988 Toyota Coaster.  

After Kevin’s death, Jeannie continued to travel on her own. 

“It’s got a washing machine, generator, shower and toilet. It’s got solar panels and big truck batteries to keep the fridge running. So I don’t have to go into caravan parks which are quite expensive now, but I like camping out in the bush anyway,” said Jeannie who still owns and travels in this motorhome.  

Lindsay Chitty and Kevin Mawson in 1966
Good friends, Lindsay Chitty and Kevin Mawson in 1966

Way back, Jeannie was introduced to Kevin by his friend, Lindsay Chitty, who she had been out with a couple of times. She went on to marry Kevin and they had two children, Peter and Erin. 

“We were all very good friends, and we kept up our friendship over the years; we used to send Christmas cards.

“Then we shifted, and Lindsay shifted, and we lost track of each other,” explained Jeannie. 

“Kevin never considered he was sick at all because of the type of leukemia [CLL] he had, and he never complained. 

“He always said he wanted to go quickly, and we used to have an argument sometimes about who would go first, him or me. 

“It was 50 years to the day that we’d been engaged – the 24th of March – when Kevin decided to leave me,” said Jeannie.  

“Kevin went quickly. Peter, Erin, his grandson, Joshua, and I were with him when he went. 

“Long before that, I’d asked him what he wanted me to do with his ashes, and he’d said, ‘put them on the back of a truck and spread me up the highways’.  

“When I told my Solo friend Carole, ‘I’m going to spread Kevin’s ashes up the highway as I go along’, she said, ‘just make sure I’m far enough back, that I don’t cop them on my windscreen’,” said Jeannie. She and Carole were travelling together at the time. 

Jean and Kevin in their first caravan
Jeannie and Kevin Mawson with their first caravan, in 1967

“I didn’t put them all in one place. They’re spread everywhere, up through Lightning Ridge, through New South Wales, South Australia, and into the Northern Territory.” 

Jeannie believes getting together with Lindsay was their destiny. 

She rang Lindsay to tell him that Kevin had passed away, then visited him whenever she was passing through Wangaratta, where he lived, on the way to see her sister and husband. 

But one year she couldn’t drop in because she was running late to meet up with Carole for their trip through South Australia and up through the centre, so Lindsay drove across to Mulwala to see her.  

“We went out for the day and had lunch at the ski resort while my washing dried on the line,” said Jeannie. 

“I took off the next morning and he said he’d write to me, which I didn’t think would happen, but his daughter set him up on the phone so we could email each other.” 

Jeannie went to live with her daughter in Townsville “for a while” and one day she said to Erin, “I think I have to go back down south again, to see what’s happening”. This visit turned into an extended stay, then Lindsay and Jeannie got engaged, and married.  

Kevin and Lindsay in 2011
After losing contact for many years, Kevin and Lindsay reconnected just months before Kevin died in 2012

I always loved the travelling and the moving around. Different people would ask me what part of Australia I like best, and I can’t really pick a place because everywhere you go, it’s all different.  

“Lindsay calls me his gypsy wife. I get itchy feet if I’m stuck for a long time, and he knows.” 

Here’s Jeannie’s ‘first-person’ story, written in March 2014, of how she coped on her own after her first husband’s death in 2012. 

My name is Jean Mawson, alias ‘Jeannie’ to most of my family and friends. 

I am 70 years young. 

I was happily married to my husband Kevin for 47 years. He was a leukaemia patient for the past 17 years. That is, until the 24th of March 2012, when I lost the love of my life. 

Kevin and I had sold up our little house that we built together near Allora, Queensland, to move north to a warmer climate and closer to our family [Jeannie’s son and family live at Sarina Beach and her daughter and family are in Townsville]. Kevin had to have another chemo session in Brisbane first, and then we would be off on the road with our new boat behind the motorhome. 

Jeannie on the Ross River Dam in 2012
Jeannie on the Ross River Dam in 2012

We were having a great time at Coolmunda Dam when Kevin got an infection in his foot. He had spiked his toe on the tiniest stick. 

Back to Brisbane hospital for intravenous antibiotics which was fixing the infection, but he died suddenly from a massive brain haemorrhage. He never left the hospital. 

I didn’t know what I was going to do. Stay living in the motorhome or sell it and buy a small house or unit. I didn’t know if I would be afraid to travel and camp by myself. After much thought, I decided to do a small trip which went very well. 

A few weeks later, I visited a friend and there I backed into a trellis putting a very large dent in the roof (and not a mark on the trellis). I was beside myself and thought maybe I was being silly to think I could do this alone. Then I remembered Kevin had broken the tail lights when he backed into a thin tree that was in a blind spot, like the trellis, and he was an experienced driver of big trucks and machinery. So off I went and even towed the boat all the way from Brisbane to Townsville. 

While in Townsville I went to a motorhome club event. The first day was so terrible, as was the start of day two. I didn’t know anyone and was about to hit the key and drive back to my daughter’s home when along came two Solo ladies who had seen me alone. After a little chat, I was told to get my cup, grab my chair, and come with them. 

Jean at the Trevi Fountain, Rome
Jeannie throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain in Rome on her Italian holiday

That was the start of meeting many new friends who travel around the country alone or in groups and are always looking out for one another. 

I am now a very independent solo motorhomer, who has travelled thousands of kilometres alone. I have coped with many problems along the way, such as the day the tornado went through Mulwala a year ago, smashing my vehicle along with many others. I’ve had several breakdowns and had to organise a few mechanical repairs. I have even been underneath the vehicle repairing a faulty drain hose. 

I am so lucky to have an amazing family and many friends who have, and still do support me along my journey.   

Yes, there are still those times of utter loneliness when you just want to share something special with someone, but you have to remember the good times and look to the future. Not easy. 

The purpose of this story is to encourage any one of you who has a motorhome and enjoyed travelling with their loved one. Don’t sell it or let it sit there to rust away, come along and join us. You can do it. Most of us have lost a loved one. I want to stress that it is NOT a singles club. We are all much stronger than we realise. I know my Kevin wouldn’t want me to be sitting somewhere just looking at four walls. I’m sure he would be very proud of me. 

Jeannie camping at Brunette Downs
Jeannie at the Brunnette Downs Races on the Barkly Tablelands, 350 kilometres north-east of Tennant Creek, in 2017

In February 2022, we caught up with Jeannie again, when she shared this update on her travels and second marriage. 

After doing many kilometres in my motorhome around Aussie by myself, I thought of my bucket list desire to visit Italy.  

While shopping one day, I visited a travel agent and found out a few details. I was hoping maybe one or two of the Solos might be interested in a trip, as many do, but not this time. I didn’t know at the time that my niece, Kim, was also planning such a trip, and decided I must go with her. I spent the next few months trying to learn some of the language, which did come in handy quite a few times. 

She made all the bookings and within in a couple of months, off we went to Rome, Florence, Tuscany, and the Cinque Terre. We saw all the sites and threw coins in the Trevi Fountain. Many people say you must return one day after you have thrown coins in the fountain.  

I also had myself sketched by a lady in one of the marketplaces there, which I have hanging on my wall now. I travelled north and south in Australia when I returned, to visit family in Melbourne and Townsville, and many friends in between.  

Jeannie and Lindsay Chitty with a photo of Kevin
“You can’t forget, but you do have to move on” says Jeannie, with Lindsay and the photo of her first husband, Kevin, that they have in their home at Wangaratta

I found a renewed friendship with a man I had gone out with when I was 17 years old. Lindsay Chitty had actually introduced me to his mate, Kevin Mawson, who I married. Back then, we all worked at the same transport company. We had lost contact over the years, but we found Lindsay at Wangaratta, about six months before Kevin passed away.  

Then I would meet Lindsay at a cafe on my way through town, but eventually it got serious, and we have been married nearly seven years. We both have extended family now and our family is very happy. 

In 2018, we went on a guided tour to parts of Canada. Firstly, by ourselves, we went to the Calgary Stampede as Lindsay is an old rodeo man. Then we joined a group and travelled by coach up through the Rocky Mountains and returned to Vancouver via the train. It also included a seven-day cruise to Alaska via the Inside Passage. It was so brilliant.  

I still have my motorhome and keep in touch with my wonderful Solo friends. Lindsay comes with me to the gatherings most times. Occasionally, I go alone and that’s okay.  

We have Kevin’s photo on the wall in our home as he was part of both our lives. Hopefully, Lindsay and I have many more years together. We don’t forget the past, but always look forward to the future because we are blessed.  

And finally, some sage advice from Jeannie for others who also have lost a loved one. 

“You can’t forget, but you do have to move on. Life doesn’t stand still,” she said. 

“I heard of another lady who lost her husband and all she wanted to do was to do away with herself because she missed him so much. That was an awful worry for her family. Whereas my family, they don’t worry about me really because they know Lindsay’s looking after me and I’m happy and that’s all they care about.  

“You have to move on. You have to take a deep breath and move on, and try and make something of your life.”  

“It’s easy to say, I know, but it’s just what you have to do. Otherwise, you make everybody else miserable.” 

Last updated on June 8th, 2022

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