It was inevitable that 90-year- old Dot’s farewell would fill St Finbarr’s church in Byron Bay, with many tears shed as Amazing Grace was sung.
Only a fortnight earlier, Dot led friends in her Byron Aged Care home, cooking up pickles and relishes, as they had done for years. They often used ingredients freely supplied by local farm-owning friends.
Sold outdoors by her at Byron’s monthly market, the pickles and relishes raised useful money for BAC’s Auxiliary, which she had formed a decade earlier.
More importantly, it enabled her and others there to still play an active role in Byron’s community.
She organised cent auctions and all-ages fashion shows, featuring clothes from St Vinnies where she had been Friday’s day co-ordinator since 1990.
Her good friend and fellow BAC resident, Pearl Varcin, describes Dot as driven, ‘by a strong sense of responsibility with equally strong leadership qualities.’
Annie Hadwell, Byron Bay St Vinnies store manager, described her style as, ‘her way or the highway’.
St Vinnies vollie
She said, ‘Dot grew up in a tough era; she went through the Great Depression and wars. She was self-reliant, and they don’t make them like that these days.’
Born in Lismore, Dot moved to Byron at age six when her dad got a job in the meatworks.
Her family briefly moved into a tent in Shirley Street.
Young Dot attended Byron Primary and later married Alan (‘Snow’) with whom she had six children.
Sadly she outlived a daughter and a son. Snow, employed as a road builder with the main roads department, moved their ever-growing family four or five times a year.
Snow even worked on the Keepit Dam in Gunnedah while Dot learned how to drive a truck.
Her large extended family always kept Dot very busy.
But Snow’s death in 1991, daughter Betty explains, ‘led to Dot becoming her own person.’
A friend of Dot’s comments ‘that’s the reason God gives women an extra ten years or so.’
Dot grabbed her new life with two hands and two feet.
As well as enjoying her passions of cooking, bingo, needlepoint, gardening and Slim Dusty songs, she became a relentless independent organiser and fundraiser.
She tried parasailing on her seventieth, travelled with her sons to Bali and Hong Kong, and entertained residents of Byron Aged Care.
Until just days before her quick decline, Dot was seen around town, zooming around Aldi’s aisles, purposefully steering her always -polished, metallic-red mobility scooter.