Known around town as a talented lawn bowler and supporter of many charities, Nell (Nellie) Downes will be missed by those who knew her.
The longstanding Dubbo resident and centenarian Nell Downes died on April 16, just a few days after her 100th birthday.
She was born on April 8, 1920 at Peartree in Kurrajong NSW, on a farm granted to her ancestor Joseph Douglass in 1825. The youngest of five children, her mother died when she was just one year old, and so she was brought up in her early years by her grandparents and aunt on the farm next door.
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She attended Kurrajong North Public school, then Richmond Intermediate High school, and finally boarded with relatives to attend Parramatta High School. After school she went into service with a family on Sydney's north shore.
When the country cousins came to stay they took a liking to Nell, and persuaded her to go back with them to Coonabarabran, where she was assistant cook on a large station. There she met the stockman Tom Downes, and they married in 1941, shortly before Tom went into the army.
Nell moved to Dubbo when Tom was based at the army camp in town before going overseas. They liked the town and decided to settle here permanently after the war. Their two children, Patricia and John, were born in Dubbo.
Nell was an active mother and spared nothing to achieve the best for her children. She and Tom spent months and years in Sydney visiting specialists and caring for John during and after his many operations.
Meanwhile, she ensured Patricia had the most active possible life, with music lessons, Brownies and Guides, choir and church, and she supported all of these with the usual fund-raising, tuck shops, street stalls and of course her knitting at which she was expert and prolific.
Nell came from a family of talented tennis players, but it was lawn bowls where she achieved sporting success.
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A foundation member of the West Dubbo Women's Bowling Club, she won numerous trophies for singles, pairs and fours, played pennants, and qualified as an umpire.
She also served on the committees, both club and Mid-West, as treasurer and secretary, and when she transferred to the Macquarie Bowling Club she continued to serve there. In 2000 she was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for her services to bowls.
When Patricia decided she wanted to study at university, Nell returned to work after almost 20 years. She found a niche at the Dubbo Ambulance Station, preparing the books and wages for ambulance officers all over western NSW. She made many friends among the officers and their families, and of course worked on bingo nights at the station when the service had to raise its own funds. She stayed on long after Patricia left university and retired only when the Ambulance Service amalgamated with NSW Health.
In retirement she continued to play bowls, her garden rivaled Canberra Floriade in spring, and she was an active member of the pensioners' association.
She discovered a love of travel, and after she and John had ventured to England, China and America, they travelled by coach all over Australia many times. She enjoyed robust health until 2003 when at 83 she suffered a small stroke, after which John became a resident of Westhaven and Nell moved into a unit at Orana Gardens.
She loved the unit, established a garden, and continued to live an active life. Thanks to the efforts of Legacy she was granted the status of War Widow, and the regular visits of the wonderful DVA nurses became a highlight of her day.
Sadly, falls and strokes caught up with her and in 2014 she moved into the adjacent Orana Gardens Lodge. The staff there helped her celebrate her 100th birthday in style despite the COVID-19 restrictions, eight days before she passed away peacefully.
She has always loved Dubbo and was proud of the town's growth. She was known for reading the Daily Liberal from cover to cover, and her final years were spent enjoying the newspaper and until recently, knitting hundreds of squares for charity quilts.
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