27 Feb

Hervey Bay aged care resident celebrates centenarian birthday

A “never give up attitude” and a healthy lifestyle may just be the key to longevity as a Wide Bay aged care resident celebrates her centenarian birthday with her family and friends.

Lilian Bearl Connor (known as Bearl) was born on 28th February 1923 and was 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 and up until the age of 98, was living independently in her own home.

Lilian Bearl Connor celebrated her centenarian birthday with family and friends at Anglicare Kirami Residential Aged Care home on Monday 27 February. Photo: Anglicare Southern Queensland

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 VAD detachment 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 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 meet husband, Kevin Connor, at the Palais Royale 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.

Family and friends gathered at Anglicare Kirami Residential Aged Care home on Monday 27 February to celebrate Lilian’s centenarian birthday. Photo: Anglicare Southern Queensland

Kevin and Bearl then got married and had two children Fay and Denis.

Kevin worked at the Courthouse and later for Solicitor Rees R and Sydney Jones 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 to face 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 plus escorting children for the Bush Children’s Home. She continued a long involvement with the Country Women’s Association (CWA), joined a choral group, joined U3A and continued her passion for bridge.

With an adventurous spirit, Bearl enjoyed travelling all over Australia. 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 on the Gold Coast. Bearl was still driving until the age of 90 when she decided to hand in her driver’s license and car. She visited family by train all over Southern Queensland, including Hervey Bay, Brisbane, Laidley and the Gold Coast.

Lilian with her family at Anglicare Kirami residential aged care home. Photo: Anglicare Southern Queensland

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 and playing and teaching bridge three times a week and enjoyed a mountain hike with her family into her 90s. Bearl’s family regularly visit her at Kirami.

Her whole family will be present for her 100th birthday lunch which will be celebrated at Fay and Reville’s home at Nikenbah on Tuesday 28 February.

On the 1st 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 is 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.”