It's a joy-filled gathering as Evelyn Renshaw celebrates her 99th birthday with family and friends at Coffs Harbour Masonic Village.
It's a joy-filled gathering as Evelyn Renshaw celebrates her 99th birthday with family and friends at Coffs Harbour Masonic Village. Rob Wright

Community treasure Evelyn Renshaw parties ... like she's 99

FAMILY and friends gathered this week in Coffs Harbour to celebrate a milestone in the long, distinguished life of Evelyn Renshaw.

May 28 was Evelyn's 99th birthday and she remains not only a popular resident of the Masonic Village Aged Care facility but one of the more cherished and significant figures from Coffs Harbour and region's growth years.

As a school teacher, active citizen, wife and mother living in Dorrigo, Bellingen and Coffs Harbour, this grand lady has seen the transition of the area from a collection of timber-getting and fishing villages, to the important regional centre it has become.

Born (as Evelyn Woodland) in Newcastle in 1914, she grew up in a farming family and finished training as a needlework teacher with East Sydney Tech College.

She spent the war years teaching in Sydney before arriving in Bellingen in 1945.

"I spent one day each week in Dorrigo and before arriving didn't know where these places were," Evelyn recalled.

"To go to Dorrigo we travelled a narrow, winding road on the mail bus and everything went along as usual except when there was a landslide on the mountain or the flat bridge at Thora was washed away."

A day each week spent at Coffs Primary meant leaving Dorrigo early with breakfast in Bellingen and on to the railway station at Raleigh to catch the school train into Coffs.

"I was delighted to receive a transfer to Coffs High and after marrying, eventually settled there."

Evelyn gave up teaching after marriage to Arch Renshaw but she continued as a casual.

Learning to drive and play bowls didn't happen until after her 50th birthday.

She joined the hospital auxiliary in 1976 and put in 11 years as secretary.

Membership of the View Club and CWA continues to this day

"In my spare time I was a tester for Girl Guides, a judge at Coffs Harbour Show and Quota's Make And Model contest, joined Probus and was a foundation member of InnerWheel.

"When my husband passed away in 1990, the support, care and friendship was wonderful and I don't know what I'd do without them.

"I feel most fortunate to have lived in Coffs and to have seen it grow from a village to a city.

"And to have enjoyed friendships of many people, some sadly not with us now."

From all of us at The Coffs Coast Advocate - from all your family and friends and the hundreds of former students you guided to adulthood - happy birthday Evelyn and many more to come.



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