Obituary: Blood bank stalwart loved by all who knew her
HEATHER Melrose Shepherd has always been known as Betty to the thousands of local blood donors she met during the decades she volunteered at the Gympie Red Cross Blood Bank.
Betty, a well loved Gympie identity, passed away peacefully on March 30, 2017 in the care of Parkview, Wheller Gardens in Brisbane at age 97 years.
Following the death of Morrie, her husband of 66 years in 2002, Betty moved into the Zion Retirement Village. She lived there independently until, at age 95, failing eye sight and other health issues required her to seek further assistance. She moved to Brisbane Wheller Gardens to be nearer her two son's Jeff and Peter.
Betty was born in Melbourne on February 14, 1920 and spent much of her childhood on a cattle station near Alpha. In 1930 the depression forced the family to move and settle near Gympie. Times were tough for the family with her father needing to travel back to Alpha, to find work, losing one of her brothers to diphtheria and herself having rheumatic fever.
In 1938 Betty got her first job at Penney's department store in Mary St, Gympie. At a dance in the Kybong Hall she met the MC for the evening, Morrie Shepherd. They married a year later and moved into their first home in Baker St, Gympie.
Morrie's work in the Imbil Forestry required him to live onsite most of the time. He rode his push bike home only on Wednesdays and weekends. Their two sons were born during the war, Jeff in 1941 and Peter in 1943. With Morrie's work commitments providing for the family, Betty took on the role of sole parent during the week.
As a working mother, Betty returned to work at Penney's in 1953, one of very few married women doing "paid work” at the time. Five years later she moved to Rockmans where she was manager for 19 years.
She had a great love for clothes and fashion.
Betty's income enabled Jeff and Peter to be supported through their tertiary studies, Jeff in arts/education and Peter in medicine. She was always so proud of both her son's achievements.
In 1959 Morrie and Betty won third prize the Golden Casket. This enabled them to buy their first car so Morrie was then able to drive to Imbil and leave his push bike at home. Betty has bought thousands of lotto tickets and scratchies since then, but none so successful.
In 1979 Morrie and Betty both retired, but Betty, not able to cope with the slower pace of retirement, returned to work in various dress shops for another 12 years. Frequently she filled the role of model at fund raising fashion parades.
Somehow along the way, Betty learned and mastered a wide variety of handcraft skills, including knitting, crochet, painting, leatherwork, china painting and making clothes for her family. Due to her generosity there are many Gympie households with examples of her work. She donated much of her work for raffle prizes and to anyone, family or friends, having a birthday or a new baby, or for no reason at all.
Betty had a long involvement with Quota and Red Cross. She was named Quota Woman of the year 1988 and Gympie Senior citizen of the Year 2002. She received Red Cross special and long service awards in 1982, 1986 and 1996 and the Red Cross Laurel Wreath 2006 which represents 50 years of voluntary service within Red Cross.
Some of her many Red Cross voluntary roles include:
Hospital visiting and library service, and Red Cross Luncheon;
Red Cross calling (well into her nineties she would call someone each day to check that they were okay);
Convener for Beauty Therapy. The group would regularly visit Gympie Hospital, Lister and Winston House providing beauty treatments such as facials, hair care, manicures and a friendly caring conversation.
Betty's great love was Red Cross blood bank where she was the star meet and great volunteer.
Blood Bank was held weekly and Gympie Rotarians were rostered to pick Betty up and drive her to and from blood bank each week. Betty knew just about every donor and their families. She was a skilled conversationalist and would soon have any nervous donor relaxed and ready to fill out their paperwork and expose their arm for puncturing.
Betty was a well-loved entity in Gympie, any invitation to a function was never refused. She loved talking to people and seemed to remember details and names of their families. She was a regular Mary St visitor, getting a taxi from Zion Village whenever she could think of an excuse to go to town. Shops selling white china, dress shops, newsagents and coffee shops will have noticed their profits fall in recent years.
She knew all the taxi drivers by name and they all took great care of her.
Betty is survived by her sons Jeff and Peter, and her younger brother Phil (who is only 90 years old) and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren all scattered throughout the country.
Her life was celebrated at an Albany Creek crematorium on Friday, April 7 with a service led by family friend Bishop Rob Nolan. She will be sadly missed by her family, her many volunteer friends and so many locals who just knew her as the lovely elegant Betty.