KIND HEART: Joan Howlett enjoying her 84th birthday in the Botanic Garden with her daughter Elise Crofts.
KIND HEART: Joan Howlett enjoying her 84th birthday in the Botanic Garden with her daughter Elise Crofts.

A compassionate life

AUSTRALIA Day always had special meaning for Coffs Harbour community worker Joan Howlett who died in April this year, aged 86.

Joan, nee Cunningham, was born on the national holiday just as the Depression began to tighten its grip on Australia.

On Australia Day 2010, her 81st birthday, she received an Order of Australia Medal for her services to the community of Coffs Harbour over 42 years and for 46 years of work with the Guiding movement.

Her long life revolved around her family and helping children and the disadvantaged and marginalised.

The early death of her father meant a basic but happy childhood in Sydney including membership of the Dulwich Hill Brownies.

Her enterprising single mother turned to SP bookmaking to feed her family.

Joan never quite inherited her mother's interest in maths but learned to play the piano and sing - and music remained an integral part of her life.

Joan left school at the end of WWII aged 14 and went to work re-touching negatives and photographs -a job later abolished by digital technology.

She recalled being kept busy re-touching the knees of footballers in team photographs because they suffered so much damage during play.

Joan moved to Coffs Harbour in 1968 with her husband, architect Graham Howlett, and their three children.

She brought her enthusiasm for the Girl Guides with her. .

She also became an exceptional public speaker, a talent which she combined with her sense of humour and fun to gain money and help from service groups and other organisations for her many projects.

She helped the Uniting Church Soup Kitchen grow from one crock pot of soup and a loaf of bread to an organisation feeding hundreds every week and was instrumental in introducing the Crisis Room and legal aid visits.

She loved fine food and family get-togethers, beach barbecues and boogie boarding.

Joan had firm opinions and in the early 1990s this saw her arrested alongside many others when she joined the massive protests against the proposed sewage outfall at Look At Me Now Headland.

More recently, she received a Rotary Award on behalf of the Soupie and a NSW Premier's Award for community service as well as her OAM.

A stroke in September 2014 curtailed Joan's activities.

She died peacefully on April 8, 2015, at Baringa Private Hospital.

Joan Howlett is survived by her children Jeffrey, Elise and Warwick and their partners and children.

Her husband Graham predeceased her in 1983.

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