Tributes paid to important historical figure
From left: Peter Khan, Janet Khan, Kaye Waterman and Stanley Bolton were the speakers at the commemorative event held at the University of New South Wales on 13 November
Eloquent tributes were paid at events marking the 50th anniversary of the passing of Clara Dunn, who brought the Baha’i Faith to Australia in 1920 with her husband, Hyde Dunn.
Among those who spoke at “an evening of inspiration and thanksgiving” at the University of New South Wales on 13 November was Dr Peter Khan, a former member of the international governing body of the Faith, the Universal House of Justice.
Dr Khan, who had known Clara Dunn (1869-1960) when he was a young man, said the Dunns made “a unique contribution to the history of the Baha’i Faith in being the originators of a process which resulted in the spiritual illumination of an entire continental area”.
Dr Khan described Mrs Dunn’s life and recounted how she had dealt with the many personal difficulties she faced.
“In a very real sense, she conquered herself,” Dr Khan said.
“She overcame these great, formidable obstacles in her life and they were the vehicle for her spiritual development,” he said.
“I think if there is one thing one can say about Clara Dunn’s life as a follower of Baha’u'llah it is that of perseverance, year after year, decade after decade,” he said.
Dr Janet Khan, a Baha’i historian, said Clara Dunn was an example of the initiative of an individual who responded to the call of the then head of the Faith, Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921), to take the religion to the four corners of the earth.
Stanley Bolton, who knew Mrs Dunn when he was a young boy, said she was positive in words and deeds and spoke out and acted strongly whenever the occasion arose.
“Even to me as a youngster she had a radiant and commanding presence,” recalled Mr Bolton, who said Mrs Dunn had been treated with great love and abiding affection by Australian Baha’is.
Kaye Waterman recalled Mrs Dunn as being “regal and fearless” when she spoke at public functions, yet she lived very simply and was detached from material life.
“She was always encouraging, positive and talking with such enthusiasm about the spirit of love and joy among the Baha’is, urging us to rise above difficulties,” she said.
Fun and joy
Mariette Leong told a graveside commemoration event on 18 November at Woronora Cemetery in Sydney that Mrs Dunn was “no stuffy pious old lady”.
“She loved fun and joy,” Mrs Leong said.
Once Mrs Dunn posed the question about what improved with old age, Mrs Leong recalled.
“It’s your forgettory!” Mrs Dunn joked.
A veteran Baha’i, Mrs Viva Rodwell, said that everything to do with Mrs Dunn was fun: “She had a wonderful sense of humour”.
Mrs Rodwell also described the deep spirituality of Mrs Dunn, whose attributes were recognised by her appointment by the then head of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi (1899-1957) as “a Hand of the Cause of God”.
“To hear Mother Dunn say a prayer was something you never forgot. She said prayers so dramatically and sincerely.”
An audio recording of Mrs Dunn reciting a prayer was played at the service and it confirmed Mrs Rodwell’s recollection.
A special commemorative service for Clara Dunn was held at the Baha’i House of Worship in Sydney on 14 November.
Baha’i communities in every State and Territory of Australia are commemorating the anniversary with a variety of functions and by dedicating to her the services they provide to the wider community
Fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Clara Dunn from Australian Baha'is on Vimeo.