UPNG registrar recalls 39 years of friendship with ‘Cath’

She leaves behind a legacy in her profession, in sports, in her friendship and in her family. She was the pillar of strength and she was the legacy.

These were the words of UPNG Registrar, Jennifer Popat, when paying tribute to her friend and sister she met in 1977 when they were students at Kerevat National High School, the late Justice Catherine Davani.

“She lived her life to the fullest and today’s attendance is a testament of the life she lived,” she told those who gathered at the funeral mass of the late Judge.

Their friendship started back in 1977, Justice Davani, whom she referred to as ‘Cath’ in her tribute, was a year ahead of Popat, doing her year 12 at Kerevat.

“We were both 17 years old then, but she was a year ahead of me. ‘Cath’ proceeded on to UPNG to study law while I continued on to the Aiyura National High School in the Eastern Highlands Province to complete my Grade 12.”

The next year, they reunited at the UPNG campus where they lived at the Luavi Haus in 1979.

“What began as a simple friendship in 1977 flourished into many year of long-lasting special friendship which not only cascaded to our families, but our friends and particularly through sports,” says Popat.

“I was Jen to her and she was Cath to me. It is impossible to pay tribute to Cath without acknowledging her faith. Throughout the tributes, we come to realise her quiet faith guided her words, and deeds.

The late Cath revealed the status of her health to Jen when they went to Madang in March last year after she got the results from her doctor in Australia.

“I was so shocked, I said to her, Cath between you and I, you are healthier. You wake up in the morning to exercise even when I’m still asleep and you even watch your diet. How can you have cancer?

“We prayed to the Lord to give us peace,” recalls Popat.

“She continued to acknowledge God up to her last breath.

“In 1987 when I gave birth to my first born daughter, she told me that, if you have another daughter, a second child, you give her to me.

“By then she had already given birth to her four sons. I did promise her that I would give her my second born daughter; however my next child was a boy. And I had no other children after that and I never fulfilled my promise to her.”

Popat says despite being a judge, Cath made friends through sports, soccer and hockey. She took in young people and guided them as her own.

“We are proud pioneers of the University Soccer Club and we continued to play until after our graduation from the university and after we supported as administration executives.

“When she started having her children, she temporarily left soccer and raised them.

“I continued to play soccer and every time I got selected to represent Port Moresby and PNG, she always felt left out.

“But she made the right decision to raise all her children before she resumed her soccer career, she was back on the field and now it was my turn to have my children.  

“I never recovered to get back on the soccer field but continued as an administrator.”

Popat says the highlight of Cath’s career begin in1996. She was selected in the PNG team that participated in the Polynesian cup in Tonga and because of her leadership qualities, both on and off the field, she was appointed as the captain of the team.

In 2015 she was appointed by the football association to be the chairwoman of the Premiers League board; she conducted a number of meetings this year even when she was suffering.

“She leaves behind a legacy in her profession, in sports and in her friendship and in her family she was the pillar of strength and she was the legacy,” Popat said.

The last conversation Popat had with the judge was on Thursday, November 3. It was a very painful day when she called the boys, only to be told that whatever she needed to say to the judge, she should do it now.

Papua New Guinea’s first female judge passed away the next day.

Sally Pokiton