Florence Bjelke-Petersen has passed away aged 97, surrounded by her family on Wednesday.
‘Lady Flo’ was the wife of controversial Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and was herself an Australian senator for the Nationals.
She passed away at 3.46pm on Wednesday at Lutheran Services Orana Aged Care Service after a short illness, the Kingaroy facility said in a statement.
Lady Flo had lived at the aged care centre since August 2014, and had played the organ at the church until recently.
“She was surrounded by her family and loved ones including her sister Margaret Gilmour,” Lutheran Orana said in a statement.
“We safely entrust her into the hands of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
“She will be sorely missed by all staff and residents of Orana.”
Funeral arrangements are yet to be announced.
Her husband, the longest-serving Queensland premier, passed away in 2005 aged 94.
Sir Joh also made a failed attempt to become prime minister, with his ‘Joh for Canberra’ 1987 campaign.
However, he split the Coalition votes and Labor’s Bob Hawke increased his majority at the election.
Lady Flo was parachuted into the top of the Nationals ticket, assuring her a place in the federal Senate in 1981. However, she started her term a few months early when her husband, the Queensland Premier, appointed her to fill a casual vacancy created by the resignation of senator Glen Sheil. She remained a senator until 1993.
Lady Flo’s famed pumpkin scones have been immortalised in cookbooks across the country.
Tributes flow from both sides of politics
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull thanked Lady Flo for her long life in public service.
“Joh and Flo devoted their lives to Queensland and its success and dynamism owes so much to their vision and leadership,” Mr Turnbull said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk sent her condolences in a statement on Wednesday evening.
She said Lady Flo “brought her passions for cooking – those famous pumpkin scones – family and faith to the fore”.
Rest In Peace Lady Flo. You were a rock of our community and will be sadly missed & lovingly remembered. I will always cherish your support & guidance.
— Deb Frecklington MP (@DebFrecklington) December 20, 2017
Very sad to hear of the passing of Lady Flo. A link to the past has been lost. She will continue to be remembered as a champion for the development of QLD to be the economic powerhouse that it is today. Vale Lady Flo.
— Matthew Canavan (@mattjcan) December 20, 2017
“On behalf of all Queenslanders, I want to express my sorrow and send my condolences to the family.”
She added the Bjelke-Petersens were “a long couple and a formidable political pairing”.
Deb Frecklington, the newly-appointed leader of the Queensland Liberal National Party, also paid her respects.
“Rest in Peace Lady Flo. You were a rock of our community and will be sadly missed & lovingly remembered. I will always cherish your support & guidance,” Ms Frecklington wrote on Twitter.
Queensland senator Matt Canavan said: “A link to the past has been lost. She will continue to be remembered as a champion for the development of QLD to be the economic powerhouse that it is today. Vale Lady Flo.”
Lady Flo’s pumpkin scones
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup mashed pumpkin (cold)
- 2 cups self-raising flour
- Beat butter, sugar and salt together with electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- Add egg, then pumpkin and stir in the flour.
- Turn dough onto a floured board and cut into circles.
- Place on a tray on the top shelf of a very hot oven (225C-250C) for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool and serve with butter.
This photo nearly five years to the day. The way Lady Flo made every person she spoke with feel valued on this day is something we will never forget. A state funeral would be fitting. #qldpol pic.twitter.com/VZcDvNur3a
— David Crisafulli (@DavidCrisafulli) December 20, 2017
RIP Lady Flo. #qldpol
— Jon Krause (@krausej) December 20, 2017