Florence Willcox has packed so much into the past ten decades, from helping to run Severn Vale Farm in Kellyville, her home for 67 years, to girl guide commissioner, bowling club president and mother.
Florence Cassie Garner was born at Ashfield on May 1, 1921. A third child for Henry and Florence Garner and baby sister to brothers Edward and Harry. She grew up in Burwood and, after leaving school she attended Miss Hales Secretarial School where she studied typing and shorthand to become a stenographer.
During World War II, she enlisted in the Australian Women’s Army Service and served in various Australian States as a stenographer. She was eventually discharged in Adelaide. Her whole family served during the war. Her brother Harry was killed at the fall of Singapore and her brother Edward served in Darwin.
Florence married Hector Thomas Willcox, a dairy farmer at Burwood in 1949 and became a step mother to Graydon Hodder Willcox. The family purchased their own 50-acre property which they named Severn Vale Farm in Balmoral Road, Kellyville in 1949, and ran a dairy farm, selling milk to United Dairies at North Rocks. The dairy business was sold in 1978. The couple had three children of their own, Jean, Dennis and Glenn and also looked after two Barnardos’ boys who helped with the farm.
Dennis said his mum helped run the farm and did all the cooking, cleaning and washing. His sister Jean was born with a hole in her heart so his mum was often taking her to the Children’s Hospital at Alexandria for appointments and treatment.
Sadly, Jean died from heart problems in 1984. Dennis said his mum was also involved in serving the local community.
“(Florence was) Commissioner of Girl Guides, a keen member of Toastmistress and also Cumberland Bird Observers, President, on two occasions of Castle Hill Women’s Bowling Club, and also President of Mitchell District bowling club.”
Florence was still enjoying lawn bowls at the age of 93 (she is Patron of Castle Hill Bowling Club) and was also driving a car up until the age of 93.
Florence lived on the Severn Farm property (named after the river in the UK) until 2016 when Balmoral Road was renamed Hector Court and she moved to Bella Vista Gardens in Fairway Drive, a mere 300 metres from the old farm’s boundary. Local streets have been named after Hector, Florence, Willcox and Severn Vale, Graydon and Hodder.
She told her son Dennis she used to love living in Kellyville because of: “the country village feeling and community where everybody looked after each other”.
The family’s birthday gathering in Kellyville on Saturday (May 1) will feature four generations of her surviving children and their families. Florence has 10 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and 4 greatgreat- grandsons.
Florence said she is looking forward to receiving her birthday telegram from the Queen, Elizabeth II.
Her secret to a long life is: “keeping the mind and body active”.