Margaret Goumas: A full, passionate life

MARGARET GOUMAS

1937-2012

WITH her red Triumph Stag, ever-stylish attire, infectious passion for film and unwavering sense of civic duty, Margaret Goumas was a Novocastrian identity to the end.

But a full life drew to a close on Thursday afternoon when the former Newcastle councillor and cinema owner sat down with her husband, Theo, to watch her favourite TV show, Hot Seat.

‘‘We were out yesterday and she was talking to people like she does,’’ Mr Goumas said.

‘‘We came home, sat down to watch TV, and that was it. I still can’t believe it has happened.’’

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Mrs Goumas, 75, was a larger-than-life character with a photographic memory for the countless people she befriended over her years in Newcastle.

At the couple’s apartment in Bolton Street yesterday, Mr Goumas and members of the Newcastle Greek community remembered a vibrant and outspoken woman who lived much of her adult life in the public eye.

The Rector of the Holy Apostles Church in Steel Street, Hamilton, Father Nicholas Scordilis, said Mrs Goumas was ‘‘a lady with a capital ‘L’ who gave generously of her time to all who needed it’’.

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With her striking dark good looks many people assumed Mrs Goumas was Greek like her husband but as Mr Goumas recounted yesterday, she was Australian and her maiden name was Taylor.

‘‘We met in Sydney in 1964 when I was working in the film industry,’’ Mr Goumas said.

‘‘I had come out here when I was 19. Our first business was a little candy outlet in one cinema and then we had the Roma Theatre in George Street, Sydney.

‘‘We moved to Newcastle in 1966 and married in 1973 and while I did not intend that she would work all the time she was not the sort of person to be submissive.

‘‘We came to Newcastle and took over the Tattler newsreel theatrette and then that became the Roma Theatre and everyone knows the rest of the story.’’

Their crowning achievement was the Showcase cinema next to the Lyrique in Wolfe Street, a true ‘‘arthouse’’ cinema with a dedicated clientele who learnt to trust Mrs Goumas’s judgment in films.

The couple were shattered in May 2008 when retail company GPT forced them to close the business to make way for a Hunter Street shopping centre redevelopment that four years later is yet to happen.

‘‘That was very hard for everyone to deal with,’’ Mr Goumas said.

Their contribution to cinema was recognised last year when they were jointly recognised by the Society of Australian Cinema Pioneers.

Mrs Goumas was elected to Newcastle City Council in September 1983 but her initial foray into civic life was shortlived because the council, led by Labor mayoress Joy Cummings, was sacked the following October.

Mrs Goumas was re-elected to the new council in September 1986, returning to City Hall on a campaign to regrout pavers in the Hunter Street mall that she said were ‘‘downright dangerous’’ for women in high heels.

She and lord mayor John Tate were members of the Citizens’ Group but both left to stand as independents and the citizen’s group eventually disbanded.

Cr Tate said yesterday that Mrs Goumas worked hard for the city and remained active in civic affairs after her time on the council finished in 1995.

Dozens of tributes to Mrs Goumas were posted on the Newcastle Herald website yesterday as people recalled her civic campaigns and her love of movies, people and animals.

Her pet dog Camella was a fixture for years in the Showcase and Lyrique foyers.

Mr Goumas said he was humbled by the outpouring of affection for his wife.

‘‘She was still very active, working two days a week at the Lingard hospital kiosk and two days a week at the Red Cross shop in Hamilton,’’ Mr Goumas said.

The couple were never blessed with children and Mr Goumas said their nieces and nephews in Greece and Australia were the children they never had.

Their marriage had its difficulties, a separation was front-page news in 2004, but the couple had long ago resolved their differences and were enjoying their retirement.

Father Nicholas said Mrs Goumas’s funeral would be held at the church in Steel Street, Hamilton, on Friday.

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