Happy birthday Joan

Great friends Dot Kell, 99, and June Bye, 90.


JOAN Bye has a wonderful life.

At 90-years of age, the mother of five remains vibrant, charismatic and quite cheeky. Her welcoming smile and the air of familiarity that surrounds her makes her a loved resident of Blakeney Lodge and a woman you just want to spend time with.

Born on October 8, 1922 in Mittagong, she grew up with her brother Fred and her parents, her father running a mixed property growing a bit of everything but mainly apples.

Joan would lose her only sibling after he was shot down in the skies above Germany during the war years, and the memory of her older brother remains strong.

Joan is a woman who in some ways was born before her time, her quick wit and intelligence, that is a strong trait throughout her family, saw her achieve solid academic success during her schooling years.

After completing school in Bowral, she headed off to teachers’ college to learn the profession, even attending university for one year.

“I found there were a few too many counter attractions at university so I headed to Liverpool for my first teaching position,” Mrs Bye said. “After a year there I was sent to Adelong in 1943 to teach.”

During the war years, in a time of petrol rations, sugar, butter and tea coupons and uncertainty, Joan would hop onto her push bike and ride from Adelong to the Murrumbidgee River, crossing on a boat, to spend the weekend with friends.

“Things were a lot different in those days,” she said. “People with a cow would swap butter and milk for sugar rations and women were getting sent out to small schools. I taught at Sharps Creek School and had 20 students for a time, I really enjoyed my time at that little school.”

In Adelong at a community dance, Joan met her future husband, Allan Bye, a man who was affectionately called Wimpie and a man who with whom she would spend her life with, building their own family.

“My husband was a prisoner of war to the Japanese army and found it quite hard to settle when he returned home,” Mrs Bye said. “We moved from Adelong to Bethungra and Cootamundra working on properties before settling back in Adelong where I taught again.”

Raising two boys and three daughters, Joan became a wonderful cook and an avid sewer, making her own outfits and clothes for the children.

Her earlier interest in study saw Joan enrol in a technical college sewing course in the 1960s in a bid to further her ability.

As the years passed 11 grand children and six great-grand children would join the ranks of the family, her birthday celebrations last Saturday at the Golf Club reminding her how precious they all are to her.

“It was a lovely celebration with a lot of the family coming,” Mrs Bye said. “They came from Queensland and Canberra and locally. It really was lovely to everyone at the one time again.”

Joan is showing few signs of slowing down and since beating Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma several years back, she moved into Blakeney Lodge aged care facility and hasn’t looked back.

“I moved around nine years ago or so and although would have liked to stay in my home a little longer, I didn’t want to be a worry to the family,” Mrs Bye said. “I am very happy here, anyone who’s not would be hard to please I think.”

Not one to sit around and ponder life’s progression, Joan is involved in everything. She takes part in all the activities on offer and enjoys the social aspect of the centre.

“I have no trouble in occupying myself,” she said grinning. “I read a lot of books still, do puzzles and join in whatever is happening here.”

Seeing the world change dramatically has not phased Joan. Some changes she described as for the best, others not so good, she is enjoying life and the challenges that accompany it.

“I feel pretty good at 90,” Mrs Bye said. “Considering I’ve had cancer and a broken hip, I’m going along alright. I can’t walk as far as I used to but I still like to get out. I am happy.”