After her 97-year-old aunt Frances "Fran" Saunders died at Dubbo in September, Sydneysider Kerry Belcastro got a surprise in the mail.
A woman who worked with Miss Saunders at Grace Bros and Myer at Dubbo penned a letter to Mrs Belcastro to honour a mentor.
"As a young 17 year old starting at Grace Bros, Miss Saunders scared the hell out of me but as I got to know her and work with her, I came to respect her work, her work ethic and attention to detail in everything she did," the stranger wrote.
The Dubbo woman told Mrs Belcastro of her aunt's willingness to help young staff members understand "at times complicated" Grace Bros and Myer systems.
"She was always immaculately turned out and kind to a fault to every person in the store that worked there and came into the store," the woman wrote.
"She was the epitome of a lady."
Frances Jean Saunders came from humble beginnings with her dream of becoming a school teacher all but extinguished by the death of her father, and the need to leave school at a young age to help run the family's Narrandera cafe.
Later, the family would move to Dubbo and live "behind a shop in Myall Street" with Miss Saunders helping to pay the bills by working as a seamstress at a clothing factory and then behind the haberdashery counter at Western Stores.
It was there the clever, kind and lifelong leaner impressed management almost immediately and found a way to chase her dream, albeit in the retail sector.
Miss Saunder's aptitude for training staff led to a statewide effort as decimal currently was introduced in 1966.
"They picked her talent fairly quickly and asked her to go around the Western Stores and train all the staff in decimal currency," said Mrs Belcastro (nee Rendell) who grew up at Dubbo.
"When she had done all the training they realised how great she was at it and offered her a job in Sydney.
"She trained Grace Bros and Myer staff for many, many years."
Miss Saunders commuted between Dubbo and Sydney in order to care for her elderly mother.
Her failing health prompted a faithful daughter's return to the Dubbo Myer store where she happily worked in the office and was its public face when required.
Mrs Belcastro tells of her aunt enjoying classical music, trips to the Sydney Opera House, gardening, VIEW club, volunteering and scrabble, while making life-long friends.
Her final years were spent at Orana Gardens where she continued to share her "wisdom, her positivity and appreciation for life with all staff and residents".
Miss Saunders is survived by her niece and nephews, Terry and Alan, and their families.
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