The true story of Thelma Healy

Mother and son: Vince and Thelma on the front steps of their Wooloowin home

Thelma Healy was an ordinary Australian woman forced to do extraordinary things to feed, clothe and protect her 10 children in Brisbane during the Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War years. Poverty, domestic drudgery and an abusive husband were her constant companions.

She did whatever was needed to survive: cooked night and day, grew vegetables, reared chickens, sewed and slaved, wasted nothing, recycled everything. Her first-born son Vincent, a strong, good-looking, generous lad, was the father the rest of the Healy kids never had.

When Vince was suddenly killed, fighting the communists in the Korean War, Thelma almost lost the will to live.

But her life took another dramatic turn and she embarked on a daunting 15,000km journey of discovery half way across the world to South Korea to find the grave of her beloved son Vince.

Passage to Pusan is the true story of Thellie’s life, based based on letters and diaries from Thelma and oral histories from her surviving children and extended family.

They all delved into their wardrobes and memory banks to extract letters, photos, stories and snippets that allowed this book to be written.

There were many laughs and tears along the way as they generously and faithfully recalled treasured tales about living in Sandgate and Brisbane and about their beloved Thellie.

About the Publisher

Passage to Pusan is published by PB Publishing, an Australian company which specialises in historical books.

It boasts a flourishing custom publishing arm as well as acquiring a small number of manuscripts for commercial publication each year.

Established by journalist and historian Phillipa Butler, PB Publishing is passionate about documenting the small voices of history.

One war tore them apart
One journey reunited them

One war tore them apart
One journey reunited them

The Sydney Institute Review

"Louise Evans captures the tenor of the decades that matured Australia, an Australia where war and hard times went hand-in-hand with a plucky determination to endure, even prosper"

Australian War Memorial

"Passage to Pusan fills a vacuum in our understanding of life experiences that were duplicated in many families across Australia during this volatile period of our history"