As she celebrates her 100th birthday today, Lawrence resident Berenice Douglas won’t know her special day is being shared with the Clarence Valley community – until she reads this article.
Born Berenice Ethel Mort on September 29, 1921, the youngest of six children for Arnot and Ethel Mort, she was welcomed into the world at her family’s Woollahra property in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.
She grew up surrounded by her loving family and enjoyed a close bond with her older siblings Frank, Marjorie, Enid, Roslyn and Wilfred.
Following the sudden passing of her father when she was 11, Berenice left school when she was 14 and worked at Searles of Sydney for two years making wedding bouquets, before deciding to study a secretarial course with Stott’s Business College.
After graduating, she worked with News-Luxe News Theatre in Sydney as a secretary, and later worked at the Woollahra Municipal Council, the Egg Marketing Board, and John Deere tractors.
Berenice was also part of the Women’s Auxiliary Service in Melbourne and worked for them as a volunteer in the office, and for the Red Cross during WWII.
She was also secretary to the manager at Commonwealth Aircraft Corp Pty Ltd where they made planes for the war effort in Melbourne.
Following the war, Berenice met Gwynell Johnson Douglas, a Welsh/Scottish man (who was born in Bangalore, India) on a train at Sydney’s Central Station.
They married on March 14, 1955, at the registry office in Sydney and lived around Bondi prior to moving back to Berenice’s family home in Woollahra after her mother passed away.
In the early 1960s, the couple bought a block of land and built their first house in Blacktown and lived there for about sixteen years before relocating to Killarney Vale on the Central Coast.
After Gwynell passed away on July 1, 1983, Berenice went to Morisset and later moved to Forster where she lived for 18 years until she moved to Lawrence in 2019 to be closer to her family.
Berenice and Gwynell have three daughters, Noelene and Jennifer (both deceased) and Pattie (who she currently lives with). She also has nine grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.
Describing her as a very independent and strong woman with a sense of humour, daughter Pattie said Berenice still knits, helps out around the house, and likes to do her own washing and gardening on the veranda.
“Mum is a beautiful soul who loves her family very much,” she said.
“She has still got friends who stay in contact with her from Forster, especially her good friend Annette.
“Together they do nine letter words in the paper each week, and text each other with the letters to work out, and they catch up every Tuesday to see what words they got.
“It’s a beautiful friendship.”
Berenice also keeps in contact with her grandchildren who live in the Northern Rivers and Brisbane via WhatsApp on her tablet.
Berenice will celebrate her 100th birthday with a small family gathering today at her home in Lawrence.
Happy Birthday from the Clarence Valley Independent!