“When I lost Bert, I didn’t know if I was ever going to be a happy person again. But you know, I am, because I have talked myself into the fact that whatever I do, he’s with me and he’s in my heart and he’s part of me.
“I don’t ever say our marriage was a perfect one and we didn’t have blues, because we did. We had world wars, but we were good together, and we did have a lot of laughs and a lot of fun through life and made a lot of hard decisions together.
“I think because of that, Bert would want me to still be happy and move on with life. That’s what I think is the best thing to do, and you know what? I think we’ve found a new normal and I feel very lucky.”
Indeed, Patti is starting a new chapter in the best possible way. Making her long-awaited return to the theatre, Patti is currently playing the Bird Woman in Mary Poppins in Brisbane.
It’s been a comfort to Patti that her big musical comeback is happening at the city’s Lyric Theatre, as it’s where she and Bert starred in The Wizard of Oz 20 years ago.
She also decided it was time to make new memories with her family. Thus, she invited daughter Lauren and her husband, Olympic swimmer Matt Welsh, and their six children to spend Christmas in Brisbane rather than in her beautiful Melbourne home, which has become a shrine to Bert.
“I adore my grandchildren and they brighten every day,” Patti reveals as New Idea stops by for a fun photo shoot with ‘Nan’ and Eva, 13, Lola, 10, Monty, 6, Perla, 3, and Alby, 2. Eldest grandson Sam, 14, was off snorkelling.
“They are good kids. They are not cheeky or bratty. I’m in awe of Lauren. She handles it better than me! If I’ve got the six of them and I have to think about a meal, I think, ‘what am I going to do?’ By the time I’ve made hamburgers for everyone I’m exhausted!
“I feel it doesn’t really matter what I do as long as I have the kids and the family around me.
“It’s all working out, but unfortunately, I’m 77 and I’d rather be 57, so that I could watch them grow and get married and be part of it. But I’m lucky to have them around now as littlies because we have so much fun.”
WATCH: Patti Newton opens up six months after losing Bert. Article continues after video.
In mid-December, Patti spent more than a week fighting COVID, after it swept through the Mary Poppins cast.
With huge temperatures, she admits: “I just thought I was going to die” – before adding that she believes taking anti-virals helped save her life, even if they were the “most awful things” and left her with a “disgusting metallic taste” in her mouth.
But the legendary TV star and singer has always been a fighter, and reveals that she secretly suffered a string of health issues last year, including one bout of vertigo that was so bad that she was forced to spend eight days in hospital.
“It just seems to happen with age,” shrugs Patti, laughing as she says that just about the only positive thing about ageing is that “you are still here”.
She’s the first to admit just how tough it was to find the will to go on after losing Bert, who fought so hard to remain with her after quadruple bypass heart surgery in 2012, recurring bouts of pneumonia in 2017 and a leg amputation in May 2021. He died on October 30, 2021 aged 83.
It was only when Patti had to present a tribute to her husband with close family friend John Foreman on Mother’s Day last year that she really started to try and find a new normal.
“I had to get myself out of the doldrums and move on and think about other things, and I did – and it was very successful. I think it helped me.
“Other 77-year-olds who lose the love of their life tend to potter around and forget about putting their makeup on and don’t do things, whereas I’ve never been that sort of person. Bert never gave up and I think I’m a bit the same.
“I think for an old girl I’m very adventurous. Writing a book is maybe something I will do in a couple of years when there is nothing else on the horizon and I feel as though before I die I want some facts to be in there.
“I haven’t got any burning ambitions left. I think in a way a lot of my boxes have been ticked. I feel pretty privileged.”