In 1950, the inseparable pair started at St Stephen’s School, run by the Mercy Sisters.
Frankie vividly recalled then Brisbane Archbishop Sir James Duhig regularly arriving in a “large black car” for Benediction.
His greeting to the awestruck school children was often “Hello, my little chickabiddies”.
“St Stephen’s head teacher was Sister Mary Teresita, but my favourite was Sister Mary De Lourdes – she had the face of an angel and I adored her,” Frankie said.
“I was more than a year older than Douglas but my mother arranged things so we would be in the same class all the way through to Year 3.
“After this, Douglas had to leave to go on to Year 4 at St James School in the Valley.”
Life passed rapidly for the brother and sister growing up with their mother Clarissa in Brisbane’s 1950s and early 1960s.
Young Douglas followed family tradition, serving in Vietnam with D Company, 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment.
In August 1966, Frankie received dreadful news.
Douglas had been killed in battle.
“He was on patrol on August 18 with his company when they encountered a large force of North Vietnamese soldiers in a rubber plantation at Long Tan,” Frankie said.
“Douglas was one of eleven national servicemen and seven regular army soldiers who died in what became known as the Battle of Long Tan.
“We were still very close – he was 21 and I was 22.”
Frankie, not long married, was in Townsville with husband Noel when the initial news came through via a telegram from her mother’s landlord.
“Neither myself nor my mother had a telephone so the landlord sent me a telegram telling me to contact Mum,” she said.
“I thought it would just be my brother had a wound in the leg or arm.
“So I was in utter shock when I learnt Douglas was dead.”
Frankie and her mother were able to view Douglas’ body but his face was covered due to terrible head injuries.
“My mother said: ‘We’ll just remember him as he was’,” Frankie said.
“But because I never actually saw him, I couldn’t really believe he had died.”
Through this dark time lasting many years, Frankie prayed constantly for the gift of acceptance, which eventually came.
Douglas Salveron is buried in Mount Gravatt Cemetery, Brisbane. On his plaque are the words: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Clearly the bond endures to this day.
Among Frankie’s most cherished items is Douglas’ brown-paper covered Catholic catechism book from which her little brother would have faithfully recited lessons all those years ago at St Stephen’s School.
A sense of awe still lingers from her childhood visits to the cathedral as it was before restoration work in the late ’80s.
“The cathedral had long, dark pews and dark confessionals each side of the nave,” she said.
“The mural of Bishop James Quinn and the Mercy Sisters’ arrival in 1861 on the 10th of May – painted by Virgil Lo Schiavo in 1942 and very inspiring – was on the wall of the transept.
“My favourite was the statue of St Therese with all the roses scattered on the ground; and that’s probably why I love roses to this day … and I chose Therese as my Confirmation name.
“There were Communion rails all around the beautiful marble Gothic high altar.”
When the restoration work was complete, Frankie visited the cathedral.
“Basically I was shocked when I saw the changes,” she said.
“However, I did come to accept them in the end.
“When you learn about the artefacts and what the artist is interpreting, you say: ‘Oh well, that’s fine then’.”
These deep connections and “natural fascination” with the cathedral precinct made it almost inevitable that Frankie would gravitate to a role as cathedral guide.
When she saw an invitation in a parish newsletter to become a cathedral guide several years ago, she readily accepted.
This was squeezed into an already busy volunteering schedule which included Legacy and the Leukaemia Foundation.
The owner of the bright pink hair touches on one of her other great loves – the Broncos.
“I love anything that makes me happy – and the Broncos (National Rugby League team) make me very happy,” she said.
Rugby league commentator Tony Durkin recently celebrated Frankie in an article, noting she had been a Broncos fan for 27 years.
Along with that brilliant hair, she wears an additional trademark to these games – “an ornate white cowboy hat”, Durkin wrote.
“The hat (and its owner) have become even more prominent recently because of regular appearances in the current NRL Membership Campaign TV commercial,” he added.
Since it was National Volunteer Week (May 11-17), Frankie returned to her favourite topic – volunteering.
“I became a volunteer for World Vision when my husband Noel and I sponsored children for nearly 40 years,” she said.
“I became a volunteer teacher aide at a special school because a friend of mine had a child with cerebral palsy.
“And I also regularly collect money for the Salvos and the Heart Foundation.”
And what does Frankie get out of volunteering?
“Satisfaction that you’re helping someone who’s often worse off than you are,” she quickly answered.
“I think it’s important to do a good deed every day – and volunteering guarantees you’ll do that.
“And it’s so personally rewarding – like when you’ve taken the school children around St Stephen’s Cathedral (as a guide).
“They’re so thankful and happy that they’re learning something.
“Then you’ve got tourists coming from all over the world to see the cathedral; it’s such a privilege.”
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.