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Beloved Glenreagh resident Elizabeth “Bessie” Webb celebrated her 102nd birthday on May 29. Image: contributed

Writing another chapter with her 102nd birthday celebrations

Emma Pritchard

As she celebrated her 102nd birthday on May 29, Elizabeth “Bessie” Webb smiled cheerfully as she completed another chapter in her incredible life story.

Born at Tallawudjah Creek near Glenreagh to parents Thomas Graham Holder and Sarah Jane Etta Simpson, she was named Elizabeth after her maternal grandmother and Isabell after a cousin who cared for her mother during her confinement.

Growing up in a loving family, her earliest memories are of being piggybacked everywhere by her older brother, and she and her siblings spent their days exploring the family property.

She enjoyed a close relationship with her father and left Tallawudjah Creek in her late teens and relocated to Southgate where she helped milk cows on a neighbouring dairy farm.

It was during the early 1940s while she was on her journey home from Lismore via train after visiting a pen-friend that she met Les Webb.

When the train broke down, and she shared her assortment of peaches with fellow travellers in the dog-box, a gentleman sitting beside her exclaimed that he had been given a rotten piece of fruit.

She swiftly replied, “yes I know, that’s why I gave it to you,” before offering him another peach.

Conversation flowed readily and after he carried her luggage off the train for her the couple exchanged addresses and promised to write to one another.

After two years of writing letters, they announced their engagement.

They married at the Christ Church Cathedral in Grafton on December 6, 1944, and travelled by bus to Woolgoolga for the first two nights of their honeymoon before returning to Grafton to catch a train to Brisbane.

After visiting her pen-friend in Lismore, who she affectionately referred to as “the cause of her meeting Les”, Mrs Webb and her husband journeyed to his hometown of Wollongong and started their new life together.

The couple had four children, daughters Robyn, Lyn, and Jen, and son Peter.

Along with being a devoted mother, Mrs Webb also involved herself with numerous community events and organisations.

She played tennis and hockey and represented NSW in the State Hockey Championships.

In the early 1980s, the Webbs returned to the Clarence Valley where Mrs Webbs undisputable reputation as a beloved local historian and author quickly endeared her to many within the Glenreagh community.

Following her husband’s sad passing in 1998, and the loss of her daughter Robyn in recent years, Mrs Webb dedicates her time to researching local history and she is the proud author of several books and stories.

Earlier this year, she celebrated the launch of her latest book and nineth publication, Tallawudjah Creek… And Me at the Glenreagh General Store on March 23, and was overseeing the church stall at the Glenreagh Community Markets on June 1.

Mrs Webb previously told the Clarence Valley Independent she enjoys staying active and keeping her mind busy and loves sharing local history with her readers.

Along with four children, Mrs Webb has three granddaughters, one grandson, three step-grandsons, and four great-grandchildren.

She is still an active member of the Glenreagh School of Arts and is currently working on upcoming writing projects.