Sonia McMahon: A lady by title and by reputation
Last Friday we lost a remarkable Australian in Sonia McMahon. She was a lady of impeccable grace and style, but also a woman of great depth and substance.
A Lady by title, but she was also truly a lady by reputation, and deservedly so.
Most Australians knew Sonia as the wife of former Prime Minister, Sir William McMahon or the Prime Ministerial wife that wore “that dress” to the White House, but she was so much more than that, she was an influential figure in her own right, intelligent and had opinions on everything.
Sonia and I first met over ten years ago in Sydney at a lunch with mutual friends. I still remember it like yesterday. Her beauty, style and grace were impossible not to notice. As I was introduced, I acknowledged her with the respect that she deserved as “Lady McMahon”. Straight away she replied “enough with that, call me Sonia”. That’s the kind of person she was.
Sonia had a strong belief in giving something back to those less fortunate and she did that by raising money and supporting many diverse organisations. She was one of those quiet achievers, a woman who worked hard for a variety of charities that she believed in, like the Australian Cancer Foundation, The Brain Foundation and Sydney Children’s Hospital to name just a few, but her contribution should not be underestimated.
Sonia also had a love for politics and was always a great ambassador for the Liberal Party. Her hunger for politics began when she joined the Party at the age of 18 and it continued through her life even after Sir William left office – she was always up for a debate on any issue and argued her point of view with great authority – you were never left wondering where she stood.
She strongly believed that Australia was built on hard work, something that she was not averse to herself. Sonia had a colourful career, firstly training as an occupational therapist before moving to United States to work for the Australian Consulate and then 20th Century Fox as a production assistant. It was after she returned to Australia that she met and married William McMahon.
William and Sonia’s marriage was a very strong partnership and he often used her as his political sounding board - Sonia understood people and the community, but she also understood politics – it is without a doubt that together they were a formidable team, built on trust, loyalty and commitment, but most of all their love for each other.
Sonia had an abundant zest for life and believed you needed to live for the moment - she certainly did that and nothing got in her way. I remember a few mates and I were attending “Boys can Cook”, a cooking class for blokes on a Saturday, where in true male tradition we would watch someone else cook whilst at the same time watching the footy on TV. Sonia soon found out that we had been going and instantly wanted to join us. In suggesting the cooking class was for blokes she replied “that’s not going to stop me from coming along”. She joined us the next week and loved it, instantly fitting in with everyone from lawyers to tradies.
It never mattered to Sonia what you did, it was all about the character of the person you were.
There are not many Australians who are able to leave a legacy that will span generations, but the significant contribution that Sonia McMahon has made to our nation will certainly ensure her legacy will live on.
I don’t think Sonia truly realised how many lives she touched during her lifetime and I am honoured to say that she did touch mine.
Goodbye my friend, you will be missed and never forgotten!
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