Described as the woman to whom the late billionaire Kerry Packer could not say no, Sr Bernice Elphick has died and will be buried today after a funeral at Sydney's Sacred Heart Church, Darlinghurst.
The Australian reports Sr Bernice Elphick, the petite nun who could reduce billionaire Kerry Packer to a quivering jelly, died in Sydney after a long illness.
A member of the Sisters of Charity who established Sydney's famous St Vincent's Hospital, Sister Bernice raised millions of dollars for the hospital during the more than 40 years she worked there.
Whatever her project, her final call was to the late Nine Network and Consolidated Press boss, who called her "the greatest fundraiser of all time."
Whatever shortfall needed to be met, Packer would pull out his cheque book and send Sr Bernice a cheque. "She would just say 'Darling, I know you'll fix it'," Packer's widow, Ros Packer, recalled a few years ago.
Sister Bernice, who died last Friday, was the driving force behind St Vincent's Private Hospital and helped to found the Garvan Institute in 1963; the Vincent's Clinic, modelled on the famous Mayo Clinic in the US, which opened in 1991; and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in 1994.
Born Alice Nolan Elphick, she entered the Sisters of Charity in 1946 after completing her nursing training at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne. She was appointed Mother Rectress of Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital in 1963, managing the hospital and being the Mother Superior of the convent.
The records of the Garvan Institute state: "It would not enjoy its present success and international position in medical research without the remarkable insight and commitment to excellence that has been the hallmark of Sister Bernice's role in founding and sustaining the institute. Her early leadership cemented a research culture that has embraced the timeless values of the Sisters of Charity, closely integrated with state of the art modern research."
Leith Myerson, who headed the Ladies' Committee at St Vincent's for 18 years from 1977, said yesterday that Sister Bernice was always "kindness itself".
Ms Myerson said Sister Bernice, who had suffered from heart problems since the mid 1990s that forced her to retire from St Vincent's, "had a turn" at her retirement home in Sydney's Kensington a week ago.
"She'll be where she wanted to be now, in the arms of the Lord," she said.
"I'm sure she had a quick flight right through."
A wing of St Vincent's Hospital was named after Sr Bernice in 2004.
The nun who got to Packer (The Australian, 24/6/08)
Tributes flow for charitable nun (ABC News, 23/6/08)
Funeral mass for Sr Bernice Elphick (The Australian, 24/6/08)