A “never give up attitude” and a healthy lifestyle may just be the keys to longevity as a Wide Bay aged care resident celebrates her centenarian birthday with her family and friends.
Lilian “Bearl” Connor was born on 28 February 1923 and raised on a dairy farm at Etna Creek in Central Queensland with her three brothers. Bearl has been a resident at Anglicare Southern Queensland’s Kirami Residential Aged Care home in Hervey Bay for the past two years. Up until the age of 98 she was living independently in her own home.
Bearl was a hard worker on the farm and this ethic remained throughout her life. She loved milking cows – up to 42 on her own.
Her daughter Fay said her mum joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) in 1939 and did voluntary work for the Red Cross while still working on the farm.
“The VAD worked for a day at the Orion Café in Rockhampton to aid the Red Cross and the owner was so impressed with Bearl’s work ethic, he offered her a job,” she said.
Her love of dancing led her to meeting husband Kevin Connor at the Palais Royal in Rockhampton. He slid across the dance floor to ask her friend to dance and as he reached her, out came Bearl, and he was lost.
Kevin and Bearl then got married and had two children, Fay and Denis.
Kevin worked at the courthouse and later for solicitors and Bearl was a homemaker. Bearl was a wonderful dressmaker and would sew for family and friends, even making a number of wedding dresses. With no driver’s license, Bearl rode a bicycle all over Rockhampton.
Bearl recalled family holidays being spent at nearby Keppel Sands enjoying music, singing, dancing and games with their group of friends “the Flying Fox Gang”.
Devastatingly Bearl’s husband Kevin suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 45, which left her facing the harsh realities of life. Fortunately, Denis was still living with her and was a great support.
In 1974 Bearl moved to Yeppoon to live next door to her ageing parents on Meikleville Hill. As well as caring for them, she embraced her new lifestyle and became a volunteer for a large number of organisations, including Meals on Wheels, the Wednesday Club, Blue Nurses and escorting children for the Bush Children’s Home. She continued a long involvement with the Country Women’s Association (CWA), sang in a choral group, joined U3A and continued her passion for bridge.
With an adventurous spirit, Bearl enjoyed travelling and there is little of Australia that she hasn’t visited. At the age of 79, she travelled by 4WD across the Simpson Desert with a group of younger friends and she loved it. On her 80th birthday, her son Denis accompanied her on her first helicopter flight over the Gold Coast. Bearl was still driving until the age of 90 when she decided to hand in her driver’s licence and car. She also visited family by train all over Southern Queensland, including Hervey Bay, Brisbane, Laidley and the Gold Coast.
At the age of 98, she moved from her home at Yeppoon to Hervey Bay where Fay and Reville live and began a new phase of her life at Anglicare Southern Queensland’s Kirami Residential Aged Care home. Up until then, she was living independently, playing and teaching bridge three times a week and enjoying mountain hikes with her family into her 90s. Bearl’s family regularly visit her at Kirami.
Her whole family are gathering at Fay and Reville’s home at Nikenbah today for lunch to celebrate her 100th birthday.
On 1 March 2023, the Fraser Coast Regional Council will be conducting a ceremony to plant a Centenary Tree in the Botanical Gardens at Urangan to recognise Bearl’s 100th birthday.
Fay believes the secret to her mum’s long life is her “adaptability and stoicism”.
“It may be that she has come from a long-living family and has never drunk or smoked,” she said.
“Her family believe it has a lot to do with her adaptability and stoicism…her ‘never give up’ attitude.
“No matter what life has thrown at her, she has never complained…just picked herself up and got on with life. We are all so very proud of her.”Jump to next article