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Honor Margaret (Sonny) Joseph (1919–1995)

Honor Margaret ‘Sonny’ Joseph (1919-1995), dietitian and community worker, was born in October 1919 at Sydney, the youngest of four daughters of English-born parents Robin John Tillyard, school master and entomologist, and his wife Patricia, née Craske, a community leader. The next year the family moved to New Zealand. The family relocated to Canberra in 1928.

Like the other Tillyard girls, Honor was bright and athletic; the Canberra Times covered news of her exploits in the swimming pool and on the hockey field. She attended Telopea Park High School and represented the school in New South Wales state carnivals, for instance breaking the record for freestyle at the country schoolgirls championship at the Domain baths in 1936. She was secretary of the Canberra branch of the YWCA and during World War II was Assistant Secretary of the Victoria League Young Contingent.

In January 1942, she left Canberra to study a three-year Home Science degree in dietetics and nutrition at Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand (BA, 1945?). She was working as a dietician at the Leys School, Cambridge, England, when she met Donald Balfour Joseph, known as Balfour, who was studying at Peterhouse College. In June 1952 they were married from the home of her brother-in-law and sister (later Sir and Lady) Lenox and Hope Hewitt, Purley, England.

In 1953 they returned to New Zealand with her English-born son Mark; Andrew Kim was born in 1956 in Auckland. Balfour was a High School Biology teacher before becoming a teacher of teachers at Auckland Teachers' Training College. Pattie visited the family for extensive periods; in 1970 Balfour worked at the Australian National University in Canberra while on sabbatical.

Sonny Joseph was an active member of the New Zealand Federation of University Women, Auckland branch, and was involved in community work. She died in September 1995 after a 16-year fight against a chronic blood complaint. She was survived by her two sons. Balfour died in early 2002.

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Citation details

'Joseph, Honor Margaret (Sonny) (1919–1995)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 28 February 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Tillyard, Honor Margaret

October, 1919
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


September, 1995 (aged 75)
New Zealand

Cultural Heritage

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