Joan is 90 years young

Charleville resident remembers over half the town's history

Life & Style

Just as Charleville has been celebrating its 153rd anniversary, one of its residents is preparing to celebrate her 90th birthday.


Just as Charleville has been celebrating its 153rd anniversary, one of its residents is preparing to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Joan Vetter (nee Elmes) will be 90 years old on Friday, September 21 and is looking forward to celebrating such a milestone with the many family and friends who have been part of a life that has seen a multitude of changes.

Joan was born Joan Elmes in the Longreach Hospital on September 21, 1928, the eldest of four children of Harry and Chrissy Elmes.

Work took the family to Augathella and then onto a property outside of Goondiwindi, but during the war years the family moved to Charleville.

They were hard years but Joan still has happy memories of a time when everyone walked or rode their bikes, of billy-cart races and fishing in the river down behind the police station.

It was a surprisingly social time as well, which included dances out near the airport with members of the army who were stationed in Charleville.

Joan’s happiest memory from this time is the day the war ended. As the news spread the whole town came out into the streets and celebrated.

Joan recalled much laughing, singing and dancing that continued on into the night. 

School years were also war years and Joan spent time at both St Mary’s Charleville and St Stephen’s in Brisbane.

On completing her schooling she commenced her nursing training in Brisbane at the Mater Hospital and then returned to nurse at the newly completed Charleville Hospital.

Charleville was a vibrant social hub during these years and many balls, races and social events were attended.

Another of Joan’s cherished memories is of a private performance by English singer, Gracie Fields to a small group of nurses who were brave enough to ask her to sing for them, which Gracie did, through one of the Hotel Corones’ dining room windows.

Love entered Joan’s life at one of the many race meetings when she met Pat Vetter.

Their marriage that lasted for more than 63 years, during which Joan and Pat made their home and raised their six children at Monamby Park, Loddon, Kentucky, and Dungiven, all sheep and cattle stations in the Charleville district.

On retirement the couple sold up and moved into Charleville where they continued to enjoy a rich social life.

In 2013, Pat passed away, but Joan continues to live a social life filled with family and friends. The family now has grown to 15 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.

They are inviting all their friends to join her for a cuppa and a yarn at the Charleville RSL on Friday between 2 and 6pm, for 90 years worth of stories and adventures.


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