Children, friends mourn Maria Korp’s love

DAMIEN Korp has been an altar boy at the church where his mother’s funeral was held yesterday. He is familiar with ritual and its implements. So, at the end of the Requiem Mass to farewell his mother, the priests handed over a golden censer on a chain to Maria Korp’s 12-year-old son.
The priest had just read out a farewell letter the boy had written to his mother. He loved her soft cuddles, he said, and her cooking, and the way she helped him with his homework. But most of all, he loved the way she had loved him. And he would love her forever.
A small, thin figure in a dark suit, his spiked hair the only concession to his youth, Damien took the vessel with care. Then he gently swung it towards his mother’s coffin, the sweet clouds of incense blessing her abused, long-suffering body and swirling around him like a mist. The enormous spray of cream flowers on her coffin – chrysanthemums and lilies – had already been crowned with his love: a necklace he had made for her himself before she died, each bead chosen with care. The boy returned the censer to the priest and stood back, wiping his tears.
There had also been a letter read out from his stepsister, Maria Korp’s daughter by her first marriage, Laura de Gois, 27. She thanked her mother for making her who she was today, and especially for teaching her how to stand on her own in the world. She also promised to carry her mother in her heart forever. She stood beside Damien as the final prayers were said. She, too, lost a parent as a child; her father died of a heart attack when she was nine.
About 200 mourners, including an aunt of Maria’s who flew out from her birth country of Portugal, attended the service at the Catholic church of Our Lady Help of Christians in East Brunswick, the church Maria Korp attended when she wanted an evening service. The five celebrants included two priests from her local parish of Greenvale, as well as a priest who had attended when “the horrible drama” began.
The gentle service contrasted sharply with the ugliness that had preceded it. In February Maria Korp was found strangled and left for dead in the boot of a car near the Shrine of Remembrance. She then spent nearly six months in hospital in a chronic vegetative state. In a move that renewed the right-to-die debate, the Public Advocate decided that Mrs Korp’s feeding should be stopped. She died nine days later, aged 50.
Maria Korp had been strangled and dumped by Tania Herman, 38, who was having an affair with Maria’s husband, Joe Korp. Herman, who has been sentenced to nine years’ jail, claims that Joe Korp put her up to it. Korp, 47, is on bail for attempted murder, a charge he denies, but one that might soon be upgraded to murder now that Maria Korp has died.
Last weekend he held his own “farewell to Maria” with candles and prayers in their now-empty $1.3 million dream home, watched by relatives and a newspaper journalist and photographer invited to record the occasion. Korp did not attend yesterday but his brother Gust and other family members were present.
This was a funeral notable not so much for what was said as for what was not said. The eulogies did not touch on murder or adultery but spoke of Maria as a cheerful, outgoing woman who always had a kind word for everyone; a woman who faithfully practised her religion and who cared deeply for her children.
One priest touched on her church community’s anger at the way Maria Korp had been portrayed in the media; they had protested to a local newspaper over it. Everyone knew that Maria Korp was a good woman, the priest said.
Another priest said that Maria Korp had always striven for love, even though it cost her dearly.
Leaving the church, her two children stopped beside her coffin. Each released two white doves. Laura de Gois’ face lightened as her first bird fluttered to freedom. Damien’s face did not.

First published in The Age.