Shirley Adams, OAM, at the official opening of Grafton Base Hospital redevelopment. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner
Shirley Adams, OAM, at the official opening of Grafton Base Hospital redevelopment. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner

VALE: Tributes flow for Grafton's first woman mayor

SHIRLEY ADAMS OAM was a trailblazer in local government and would tell anyone who listened that if you wanted something done, ask a woman.

Tributes have flowed for the former mayor of Grafton City Council, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 89.

Mrs Adams was well-known in the region throughout her life and began her community work as a teenager helping local and state charities.

She was crowned Jacaranda Queen in 1952, a role she said prepared her for her future life as a spokeswoman for the community.

"It was such an honour," Mrs Adams said in an interview with The Daily Examiner in 2014.

"It was my first experience speaking and engaging with the community, and I believe it absolutely was what prepared me for public life."

She married husband John in the Christ Church Cathedral in 1955, and they lived much of their lives in their home in Oliver St in Grafton.

John and Shirley Adams celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in 2015.
John and Shirley Adams celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in 2015.

Mrs Adams was also heavily involved with the Girl Guides movement while raising her young family, becoming both a diploma and national trainer.

It was this experience that encouraged her interest in civics and was elected to Grafton City Council in 1974.

She continued for 13 years, including five terms as deputy mayor before retiring in 1987 to concentrate on other civic duties.

In 1989, Mrs Adams was awarded a medal of the Order of Australia for her work in local government and girl guides.

She re-entered local politics in 1995, serving one year as deputy mayor of Grafton City Council before becoming the mayor, the first woman in the council's 143-year history. She was the last mayor of the council before it amalgamated in 2005, and served as the new council's deputy mayor in 2005.

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Mrs Adams continued her work following her retirement from the council and was chairwoman of a committee that saw to an upgrade of Grafton Base Hospital in 2013.

Last year, the Jacaranda Festival honoured Mrs Adams with a life membership to top off an extraordinary list of community achievements.

Former mayor Richie Williamson paid tribute to Mrs Adams and extended his condolences to her husband John, and children Simon and Virginia and their families.

"It is with sadness and fond memories that I reflect on the passing of a dear friend, Shirley Adams OAM," he said.

"Shirley was a trailblazer in local government circles, being the only woman elected to the position of Mayor of Grafton City Council, serving on many committees and subcommittees at both local and state levels.

"Shirley and John almost single-handedly arranged the celebration for the sesquicentenary of the City of Grafton, including finding the funds. Yes, she sold 100 City of Grafton flags to raise funds, painted the city purple with crepe paper for the Olympic torch relay and was also a fearless campaigner for better health services in Grafton.

"She said to me on more than one occasion, "If you want something done, ask a woman!" and that was certainly true for Shirley."

SLICE OF LIFE: John Adams, Shirley Adams and Bob McFarlane cut the cake at Red Cross centenary celebrations in Grafton on May 8. Photo Clair Morton / Daily Examiner
SLICE OF LIFE: John Adams, Shirley Adams and Bob McFarlane cut the cake at Red Cross centenary celebrations in Grafton on May 8. Photo Clair Morton / Daily Examiner

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis also paid tribute to a woman he said was a leader and stalwart of her community.

"I was saddened to hear of the passing of Shirley Adams, OAM," he said.

"Shirley's passing comes as a shock because she served the Grafton community for such a long period of time she almost seemed indestructible."

Mr Gulaptis said his first direct contact with Mrs Adams was in 2000 after he was elected mayor of then Maclean Shire Council, and she was mayor of Grafton City Council

"Shirley commanded enormous respect from the community," he said.

"She loved, and she wore the Grafton colours with fierce loyalty whenever we met and wherever she went. She fought hard for what she believed in.

"Shirley was very old school and very proud of the Jacaranda City. She believed in etiquette and protocol, and as Mayor of Grafton she set the bar high.

"She was a true blue Graftonite."

Shirley Adams, OAM, and John Adams, OAM, both thoroughly enjoy doing volunteer work within the Clarence Valley. Photo: JoJo Newby/The Daily Examiner
Shirley Adams, OAM, and John Adams, OAM, both thoroughly enjoy doing volunteer work within the Clarence Valley. Photo: JoJo Newby/The Daily Examiner


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