Joan showing no signs of slowing
JOAN Barnett picked a ripe lemon from her tree and walked over to her fence.
“You’ll have to catch it if you want it,” she laughed to the young neighbour, before tossing it in his direction.
Turning 93 this week has obviously not slowed her down.
“I did about five laps in the relay for life the other week,” Joan said.
She meandered though her Yamba Street yard, inspecting her paw paws, custard apples and avocadoes before taking herself up to her veranda to watch the street go by.
“Mrs Gunna, lives here, do you know her?” she laughed again.
“I’m gunna do this and I’m gunna do that, but most of it doesn’t get done.”
On her list of things to do is send photographs of a taxidermied turtle to the Darwin historical society.
“My husband Les was in the air force and sent it back during the war,” she explained.
“A bomb hit the hanger and the turtle’s flippers came off so I sewed them back on.”
Born in Daisyville, Sydney, (now Kingsford) in 1917, Joan left school at 13 and learnt to sew at East Sydney Technical College.
“I hated school, so I put my age up a year and didn’t go back,” she said.
Her chosen profession soon became a national necessity – sewing parachutes for the war.
“We all had two jobs in those days,” Joan said
“You had your paid work and then you would volunteer in the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachments) or the CUSA (Catholic United Services Auxiliary).”
“But everyone was happy to do it and there was a great feeling of unity.”
Her life flourished on the South Coast of NSW after taking an ex-services house that she shared with her sister.
When her husband came home, the couple bought two army tents and two blocks of land and slowly built their home around them.
“I had three children and another on the way and went in to organise a roof for the house,” Joan said
“Building supplies were limited after the war and they gave me the roof – but with no screws!”
Seven ‘beautiful’ children later, her husband was lured to Yamba in the 1970s ‘because someone said the fishing was good’ and the couple bought their land just a stone’s throw from Pippi Beach for $5000.
The tents always followed with the family’s extensive travels around Australia, their route marked on a huge map of the country hanging on her wall.
“We wanted to buy the block next door, but they wanted $9000!” she said.
Longevity runs in Joan’s family, with three of her sisters in their 90s and a ‘baby brother’ well into his 80s.
But Joan said it’s her inquisitiveness, her interest in other people, love of travel and staying an active Christian has kept her sharp as a tack, content and living independently at 93.
“But the highlight of my life has been belonging to such a lovely family.”