Compassion, cheer and curiosity

Lea Rapoport is 91 years of age but she chats with the energy and enthusiasm of a curious youngster.

Her neat and modest home in a quiet Rangeville street radiates good vibes and is filled with mementos and treasures from a full and eclectic life.

There are tapestries, sculptures, paintings and curios. All lovingly collected from travels throughout the world with her late husband, David Rapoport, who was Toowoomba’s first residential barrister.

Theirs was a love story that began with a chance encounter on a Coolangatta beach where Lea and her friend were playfully chatting in Arabic unaware that David spoke five languages and could understand every word of their conversation.

Their long-distance courtship was sustained by written letters before they wed in Sydney and welcomed three daughters.

Lea’s life has been punctuated by talent and success in myriad pursuits. She was an archery champion in her youth and a capable ballroom dancer and teacher. She rode horses, painted and became an internally acclaimed photographer.

She studied psychology at Sydney University, but it was a mutual passion for photography that led her and David to establish a photographic studio when they arrived in Toowoomba in 1960.

Lea went on to manage Direct Colour Studios for 25 years, specialising in wedding portraits and character studies, while David pursued his law career.

The couple operated their studio and law practice from the family home, which was the stately Culzean house at 317 Margaret Street. It was a happy residence that would endure for 48 years.

As well as travel, art and music, Lea and her husband shared a deep compassion for young people and regularly opened their home to at-risk youth and hosted fundraising events in the expansive gardens.

Helping young people developed in to a career. She graduated with Honours with a degree in Business and Economics, established a business management and training consultancy and joined the University of Southern Queensland’s teaching staff. In 2010, the university recognised her significant contribution with a Medal for Outstanding Service.

While retired from academia, consulting and international travel, Lea has maintained an impressive verve and is making the finishing touches to her third book, Indelible Imprints, which is due for release later this year.

A classical tune floats in the background as we merrily chat about her love for music, nature, horses, sunflowers and the occasional Michael Jackson song (she plays his music every morning as part of her daily exercise routine).

Rather than lament today’s society or judge its youth, Lea talks with genuine wonder and optimism about her community and the opportunities available.

No doubt it is this warmth and cheerfulness that keeps generations of young people turning up at her door for afternoon tea or a chat in her backyard patio.

Evidence of a beautiful life lived with grace, humour, kindness and a good dose of sunniness.

(Lea receives yard maintenance services through YellowBridge QLD’s Home Services program)

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