Lifetime resident leaves her mark

Phyllis Lorelle Harley.

Phyllis Lorelle Harley.

The death occurred on Saturday, June 19, of Phyllis Lorelle Harley (formerly Houghton) at Bilyara Aged Care Centre, Cowra.

Phyllis was 95 years old and had lived before marriage on "Eagle View," at Cucumgilliga, after marriage on "Mt Pleasant," at Morongla, and in retirement in Keswick Street, Cowra.

She was awarded the Cowra Australia Day Citizen Award in 1994 in recognition of the active role she played in the web of community and charitable organisations that, through their combined effect, define country towns as communities whose members care for each other.

Caring for others was the hallmark of Phyllis' life.

Three days before her death, the Red Cross recognised her 80 years of service as an active Red Cross member with a bar added to her Lifetime Service Medal.

She was just 15 when she joined the Red Cross in 1941, the year that saw Australia declare war on Japan.

It was the establishment of the Military Training Camp at Cowra that brought William Australia Harley, the soldier in the 9th Division AIF whom Phyllis later married, to town, and led to their chance meeting on the Sydney train.

Their marriage in 1948 and purchase of "Mount Pleasant," the farm they were to work until 1985, saw them establish themselves in the Morongla community and contribute to all the aspects of community life, many of which took place in the Morongla Mechanics institute and Show Ground, and the two churches.

Phyllis took part in the many meetings, competitions, and social activities, always looking out for her many relatives and neighbours through the inevitable adversities of farming life such as bushfires, droughts, floods, plagues and crop and livestock disasters which left families vulnerable, financially and emotionally.

Phyllis was always there for a comforting talk on the telephone or visit with cups of tea.

Like most country women of her generation, Phyllis' self-sufficiency consisted in mastering the skills of making the family's clothing and linen through knitting and sewing, managing farm produce through bottling, pickling and preserving fruits and vegetables, running a poultry business, maintaining a garden and orchard for fruits and vegetables, and surrounding their homes with annual and perennial flowering plants, shrubs and bulb gardens, from which came the interest in floral arrangements.

Organisations like the Country Women's Association brought farm women together and allowed them to share their knowledge and skills. Phyllis was known for her success in floristry and pickle making at both the local and Royal Easter Shows.

She received a Long Service Award from the Royal Agricultural Society in 2007 for her 25 years as a volunteer, along with her husband, Bill, on the Western Districts Exhibit.

The Harley family has endowed the Morongla Show Society with a trophy in the decorative flowers section, in Phyllis' name.

As the eldest daughter of a blind mother, May Houghton, Phyllis was born a carer and grew to be alert to all the incidents of care needed, without prompting.

Giving aid warmly and freely to her mother from childhood, she developed a heightened sense of physical and emotional wellbeing which her five surviving children cherish her for.

Battling bouts of illness, she was uncomplaining, while supporting others through their own difficult times: that is the mark of a true humanitarian.

Phyllis is survived by her children: Bruce, Lorraine, John, Malcolm, and Anne; by her 13 grandchildren; her 14 great-grandchildren, and her sister, Elsie Bryant and brother-in-law, Les Bryant.