Ernest was born on 27 June 1926 in Merredin in the central West Australian wheatbelt. He was one of 14 children and his mother had a café making scones, pies and sausage rolls while his father worked in a cordial factory.
When the family moved to Perth in 1936 Ernest and his brother Philip attended Clontarf Boys College run by the Christian brothers. But their mother then suffered severe complications in childbirth that left her with paralysis down one side of her body. Ernest and Philip returned home to help with their mother’s recovery.
Not long afterwards Ernest got his first job in a tiling factory, which allowed him to purchase his first push bike meaning he was able to go to night school for technical studies.
Ernest left home at the age of 14 and worked throughout the wheatbelt as a farm hand in places like Mingenew, Geraldton and Mullewa. Later he accepted a job at Midland Junction where he was employed as an engine cleaner by Midland railway Company. Ernest obtained a Fireman’s Certificate.
Ernest then joined the R.A.A.F starting his training at Claremont Barracks. He enjoyed postings to Port Hedland, Pearce and Darwin. About this time, he met and married Peggy who was a hairdresser.
The young couple spent the War in Darwin where Ernest worked as an aircraft refueller and in maintenance roles. When the War ended the couple stayed on at the barracks in Darwin.
When their first child Josie was born in 1947, they moved back to Western Australia where Ernest worked as a mechanic, fitter and turner for 12 years before they decided to return to Darwin. Ernest then worked as the Lighthouse Keeper at Cape Don, north of Darwin.
Ernest then applied for the position as Officer in Charge at the East Arm Quarantine Station in Darwin. It was at this time that Ernest started the Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre for visiting seamen. He was still engaged in this work when Darwin was hit by Cyclone Tracy in 1974. On 11 June 1984 Ernest was honoured with the Order of Australia Medal in recognition of his work for seafarers.
Returning to Western Australia, Ernest and Peggy took up residence in Albany where he worked in the parish and was ordained as a Permanent Deacon in 1991.
Once again, starting from scratch, Deacon Ernest started the Albany Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre. He was lucky to find a wonderful couple to assist him – David and Marilou Lomas. Marilou carries on his work to this day.
Ernest retired but Peggy suffered a major stroke in 2009 and was lovingly cared for by her husband until her death in December 2011. Ernest then moved to Perth to live first with his son Michael and later with David in Mandurah.
Ernest Carey passed away peacefully at Bethany Nursing Home on 15 December 2021.
On 30 December 2021 Bishop Gerard Holohan from Bunbury Diocese celebrated Holy Mass for Ernest at Our Lady’s Assumption Catholic Church. Co-celebrant Father Chris Saminal travelled to Mandurah with Marilou Lomas and two Stella Maris volunteers. Deacon Patrick Moore, from Stella Maris Fremantle, joined them to proclaim the Gospel.
(Edited by Deacon Patrick Moore from a text written by Ernie’s daughter, Josie.)