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A principal, a prince and a boy


A principal, a prince and a boy

Sami Muirhead pays tribute to a woman who was so much more than an educator to the Sunshine Coast Grammar School children, parents and staff who loved her.

Light is a special quality in a human. Some rare people are so effervescent, it seems they could never actually succumb to something the rest of us mere mortals do, such as dying. For me, Maria Woods was one of those extraordinary, glittering souls and I am so sad she suddenly passed away late last month after a battle with a blood cancer disease.

My heart breaks for her husband Paul and her two sons, whom she cherished and spoke of so often, and also for the wider Sunshine Coast community which adored her. Maria was the principal at Sunshine Coast Grammar School for a decade and was a businesswoman who could light up a room with her smile, her smarts and her sass.

“I understand why so many of us are grieving because Maria loved all kids nearly as much as her own and in turn, that made everyone love her because our children are our prized possessions. It was as though everyone felt she was their aunty,” Paul said.

The mum radiated kindness, compassion and had a zest for children to thrive in all areas of their lives. I loved that a woman from one of the most prestigious schools on the Coast was at the helm and I always took great pleasure in knowing Mrs Woods was the best role model for all of my children to look to for inspiration.

Maria was a pioneer and a wonderful leader who was in the trenches with kids, parents and the teachers. My favourite memory is when I was somehow coerced into swimming in a parent race at a carnival when my daughter was in Year 1.

I swam as fast as I could, with arms and legs flailing through the water, and I thought at the end of 50m I might be having a heart attack as I was so unfit. As I clung onto the edge of the pool for dear life, listening to my heart thumping away, Maria appeared to check I was okay. All I could really see from my point of view were her fabulous red velvet high heels on the edge of the pool. It made me laugh and forget about my huffing and puffing, and I thought, “Only Maria would wear scarlet heels to the school swimming carnival”.

Maria would visit the kindy attached to Grammar School, where all my three kids attended, and hold dance lessons with them most weeks. It was always a highlight to see these performances with the tiny tots dancing with our principal.

My boy, who is now aged nine, knew Maria his whole life and they had a special interest together in music. More specifically, they both loved the artist Prince. Maria asked Augie to dance with her to Purple Rain and my little one was too shy.

But it remained a joke between them that he owed her that dance to that iconic song one day when he finished Year 12. Perhaps the lesson from a loss I am struggling to understand is the metaphor to dance to Prince if the opportunity arises. I like to think Maria is in heaven with those red velvet heels on, giving it her moves to Purple Rain. Her warm light is so terribly missed.



Sami Muirhead is a radio announcer, blogger and commentator. For more from Sami tune into Mix FM.

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