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A Country Practice stars gather to farewell beloved actor Lorrae Desmond

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Cast members of long-running Australian soap opera A Country Practice have reunited to farewell beloved actor Lorrae Desmond at a colourful funeral in Sydney.

Mourners were asked to wear sequins at the service in the Magnolia Chapel of the Macquarie Park Crematorium on Thursday and many followed the request.

Stars from the show that cemented Desmond’s place as one of the country’s most popular performers sat together as the skirl of a bagpipe accompanied her white coffin into the service.

The casket was draped in a scarf featuring the medal ribbons awarded to Australia’s Vietnam veterans, representing Desmond’s five tours of the warzone as an entertainer. 

Cast members of long-running Australian soap opera A Country Practice have reunited to farewell beloved actor Lorrae Desmond at a colourful funeral in Sydney on Thursday. Desmond is pictured in 2006

Cast members of long-running Australian soap opera A Country Practice have reunited to farewell beloved actor Lorrae Desmond at a colourful funeral in Sydney on Thursday. Desmond is pictured in 2006

Mourners were asked to wear sequins at the service in the Magnolia Chapel of the Macquarie Park Crematorium on Thursday and many followed the request

Mourners were asked to wear sequins at the service in the Magnolia Chapel of the Macquarie Park Crematorium on Thursday and many followed the request

Actor Shane Withington, who played nurse Brendan Jones in A Country Practice, holds an umbrella for his wife - on and off-screen - Anne Tenney at Thursday's funeral for Lorrae Desmond. Tenney's character Molly Jones died of cancer in a tear-jerking episode

Actor Shane Withington, who played nurse Brendan Jones in A Country Practice, holds an umbrella for his wife – on and off-screen – Anne Tenney at Thursday’s funeral for Lorrae Desmond. Tenney’s character Molly Jones died of cancer in a tear-jerking episode

The service was a mostly light-hearted celebration of Desmond's extraordinary career in Australia and abroad and featured tributes from friends and family. Actor Grant Dodwell, who played Dr Simon Bowen in A Country Practice, is pictured left

The service was a mostly light-hearted celebration of Desmond’s extraordinary career in Australia and abroad and featured tributes from friends and family. Actor Grant Dodwell, who played Dr Simon Bowen in A Country Practice, is pictured left

Desmond, a Gold Logie-winner best known for her role as nurse Shirley Gilroy on A Country Practice from 1981 to 1992, died on the Gold Coast on May aged 91. 

A Country Practice, which aired on Network Seven, was Australia’s longest-running drama series until the late 1990s when that record was overtaken by Neighbours. 

The show followed the lives of characters living in the fictional town of Wandin Valley, particularly its small hospital, veterinary surgery, RSL club and police station. 

Among its alumni at Thursday’s service were Shane Porteous, who played Dr Terence Elliot, Grant Dodwell, who played Dr Simon Bowen, and Di Smith who played Dr Alex Fraser.

Shane Whithington, who played nurse Brendan Jones, attended with his wife Anne Tenney, who was also his wife Molly Jones in the show. 

Wendy Strehlow and Jo Mitchell who played nursing cousins Judy and Jo Loveday, also turned out to celebrate their late friend.  

Mitchell spoke for the ensemble when she said Desmond, who supported the young actor from her first day on set and was the first person to get her drunk, was ‘loved and adored’.

Among the stars of A Country Practice at Thursday's service were Shane Porteous (centre), who played Dr Terence Elliot, and Di Smith who played Dr Alex Fraser

Among the stars of A Country Practice at Thursday’s service were Shane Porteous (centre), who played Dr Terence Elliot, and Di Smith who played Dr Alex Fraser

Jo Mitchell (left), who played nurse Jo Loveday in A Country Practice, spoke for the ensemble when she said Desmond was 'loved and adored'

Jo Mitchell (left), who played nurse Jo Loveday in A Country Practice, spoke for the ensemble when she said Desmond was ‘loved and adored’

Singer Kamahl (pictured) met Desmond when they were both young performers. 'She was a star and I was looking up to her,' he said

Singer Kamahl (pictured) met Desmond when they were both young performers. ‘She was a star and I was looking up to her,’ he said

The casket was draped in a scarf featuring the medal ribbons awarded to Australia's Vietnam veterans, representing Desmond's five tours of the warzone as an entertainer

The casket was draped in a scarf featuring the medal ribbons awarded to Australia’s Vietnam veterans, representing Desmond’s five tours of the warzone as an entertainer

The service was a mostly light-hearted celebration of Desmond’s extraordinary career in Australia and abroad and featured tributes from friends and family.

Anecdotes and clips of Desmond shown on small screens regularly drew laughter and applause. 

Several speakers told of Desmond’s love of champagne and famous cleavage. She was described as someone for whom there was no glass ceiling and a feminist before that movement began.  

Mourners heard Desmond once turned down the advances of rock star David Bowie, had been taught to drive by British Formula 1 ace Stirling Moss and danced with the great Fred Astaire.

Desmond was born Beryl Hunt at Mittagong in the New South Wales Southern Highlands in 1929 and moved to the UK with her family at the age of ten. 

Desmond (third from left with other characters) was in A Country Practice between 1981 and 1992. Grant Dodwell (back row left), Shane Withington (back row right), Anne Tenney (far right) and Shane Porteous (bottom right) attended her funeral

Desmond (third from left with other characters) was in A Country Practice between 1981 and 1992. Grant Dodwell (back row left), Shane Withington (back row right), Anne Tenney (far right) and Shane Porteous (bottom right) attended her funeral

Shane Whithington (left), who played nurse Brendan Jones, attended with his wife Anne Tenney, and Grant Dodwell (right), who played Dr Simon Bowen

Shane Whithington (left), who played nurse Brendan Jones, attended with his wife Anne Tenney, and Grant Dodwell (right), who played Dr Simon Bowen

Desmond, a Gold Logie-winner best known for her role as nurse Shirley Gilroy on A Country Practice from 1981 to 1992, died on the Gold Coast on May aged 91. Photographic cards from the show were spread out on a table for mourners

Desmond, a Gold Logie-winner best known for her role as nurse Shirley Gilroy on A Country Practice from 1981 to 1992, died on the Gold Coast on May aged 91. Photographic cards from the show were spread out on a table for mourners

Anecdotes and clips of Desmond shown on small screens (pictured) regularly drew laughter and applause

Anecdotes and clips of Desmond shown on small screens (pictured) regularly drew laughter and applause

Her career took off in Britain when she represented that nation in the 1957 Eurovision Song Contest.

Desmond, who was also an accomplished comedian, worked in the UK with legendary British comics Tony Hancock, Eric Morcombe and Ernie Wise.

Love letters written to Desmond by gap-toothed film star Terry Thomas, with whom she had a ten-year relationship, were placed in her coffin, along with a teddy bear he had given her.

Desmond returned to Australia in the 1960s and started singing and dancing on self-titled variety program The Lorrae Desmond Show, becoming the first woman to win a Gold Logie, in 1962.

She went on to entertain troops in Vietnam between 1967 and 1971, following trips to perform for the armed forces in the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya and Somalia. 

Singer Kamahl met Desmond when they were both young performers. ‘She was a star and I was looking up to her,’ he said. 

‘She was an amazing Australian and a great entertainer. I wish I had a tenth of her talent.’

Desmond's fellow wartime entertainer Dinah Lee (pictured) spoke at the service

Desmond’s fellow wartime entertainer Dinah Lee (pictured) spoke at the service

Several speakers told of Desmond's love of champagne and famous cleavage. She was described as someone for whom there was no glass ceiling and a feminist before that movement began

Several speakers told of Desmond’s love of champagne and famous cleavage. She was described as someone for whom there was no glass ceiling and a feminist before that movement began

Stars from the show that cemented Desmond's place as one of the country's most popular performers sat together as the skirl of a bagpipe accompanied her white coffin into the service

Stars from the show that cemented Desmond’s place as one of the country’s most popular performers sat together as the skirl of a bagpipe accompanied her white coffin into the service

Desmond was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1970 for her service in Vietnam and retained a lifelong affinity with war veterans.

Her funeral notice welcomed ‘Lorrae’s beloved Vietnam Vets’ to sit in the chapel with her family and friends. Desmond was called the matriarch of Australia’s armed forces entertainers and ‘the mother of all Vietnam veterans’.

‘I don’t like wars but I love soldiers,’ she once said.

Ken Ward first met Desmond on Christmas Day 1967 after she sang for troops at Nui Dat where he was serving with 7 Battalion Royal Australia Regiment.

She had joined the soldiers for lunch and in a nod to the battalion’s nickname and mascot was made an ‘honorary Pig’.

‘It made a big difference to us,’ Mr Ward told Daily Mail Australia. ‘It really boosted morale. She loved entertaining the troops.’

Desmond appeared in Meet Lorrae Desmond, Swing With Lorrae, Trouble for Two and Homicide in the 1960s and Number 96 in the 1970s. She played Donald Fisher’s mother Isobel Dupre on Home And Away in 1997

Her funeral notice welcomed 'Lorrae's beloved Vietnam Vets' to sit in the chapel with her family and friends. She was called the matriarch of Australia's armed forces entertainers and 'the mother of all Vietnam veterans'

Her funeral notice welcomed ‘Lorrae’s beloved Vietnam Vets’ to sit in the chapel with her family and friends. She was called the matriarch of Australia’s armed forces entertainers and ‘the mother of all Vietnam veterans’

Shane Withington and wife Anne Tenney line up to sign the condolence book at Desmond's funeral

Shane Withington and wife Anne Tenney line up to sign the condolence book at Desmond’s funeral

Fellow 7RAR veteran Len Schulz, who attended the service with wife Wendy, said Desmond had become a lifelong friend who would often call to check up on him.

‘She means a hell of a lot to veterans,’ Mr Schulz said. ‘She was a mother hen to us all.’ 

Desmond played policeman Frank Gilroy’s wife on A Country Practice in 816 episodes of the series, winning a best supporting actress Logie in 1984. 

She had previously appeared in Meet Lorrae Desmond, Swing With Lorrae, Trouble for Two and Homicide in the 1960s and Number 96 in the 1970s. She played Donald Fisher’s mother Isobel Dupre on Home And Away in 1997. 

Desmond co-wrote a musical, Man of Sorrows, penned a play, Honey, and had been a columnist for That’s Life magazine.

Mourners heard Desmond once turned down the advances of rock star David Bowie, had been taught to drive by British Formula 1 ace Stirling Moss and danced with the great Fred Astaire. She is pictured at London's Heathrow airport

Mourners heard Desmond once turned down the advances of rock star David Bowie, had been taught to drive by British Formula 1 ace Stirling Moss and danced with the great Fred Astaire. She is pictured at London’s Heathrow airport

Desmond co-wrote a musical, Man of Sorrows, penned a play, Honey, and had been a columnist for That's Life magazine

Desmond co-wrote a musical, Man of Sorrows, penned a play, Honey, and had been a columnist for That’s Life magazine

This year, she was named in the Australia Day honours list as a Member of the Order of Australia for ‘significant service to the performing arts as an actor, entertainer and singer.’

Desmond told TV Tonight of that award: ‘I don’t know what I did to deserve it. But I am very honoured. It was a big surprise.’

‘I’m grateful to still be alive. I’ll be partying with friends and family on the Gold Coast. While they enjoy champagne I’ll be having Sambuca.’

Desmond’s coffin left the chapel to the sound of her voice singing Leaving on a Jet Plane, which she had performed for the troops in Vietnam, and she received one last standing ovation.   

Desmond's coffin left the chapel to the sound of her voice singing Leaving on a Jet Plane, which she had performed for the troops in Vietnam, and she received one last standing ovation

Desmond’s coffin left the chapel to the sound of her voice singing Leaving on a Jet Plane, which she had performed for the troops in Vietnam, and she received one last standing ovation