Jessie Bell reading up on the Medal of the Order of Australia.
Jessie Bell reading up on the Medal of the Order of Australia. Rob Wright

An OAM at 91 a complete surprise

JESSIE Bell had never heard of the Order of Australia Medal before she received a letter telling her she had been awarded an OAM.

The 91-year-old Coffs Harbour grandmother says she can’t imagine who nominated her for the Australian Honours list and she is surprised at the things they found out about her.

“How do they know that I used to play the piano for dances in the Eastern Dorrigo during the Depression?” she said.

Jessie Elaine Bell, nee Timms, virtually taught herself to play both the piano and the organ, after only three months tuition at the age of eight, because her teacher left town.

She was later the organist for the Uniting Church in Ulong and in Coffs Harbour.

She entertained elderly residents of the Coffs Harbour Nursing Centre with piano and piano accordion recitals for more than 20 years. She also compiled reminiscent music programs for residents with dementia.

She still accompanies the pastor to aged care facilities to provide musical support for services.

She lost her own piano and accordion in the 2009 flood which inundated her Coffs Harbour home.

In 1966 she organised the Eastern Dorrigo Reunion and co-ordinated and convened this popular event on an annual basis for the next 30 years.

A keen photographer, she recorded many scenes around the district and included many of them in her two books, A Pioneer and the Eastern Dorrigo and The Timms Story, a family history.

Jessie leads a busy life and is rarely found at home.



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