Share benefactor celebrates 102nd birthday

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Florence BarberFlorence Barber has seen much throughout her 102 years. She lived through two World Wars, witnessed the rise and fall of the Soviet Union and experienced the dawn of the internet.

The Noble Street Uniting Church member is celebrating her birthday on Tuesday with an afternoon tea with family and friends. A party was also held at the Noble Street congregation over the weekend to honour her life’s achievements.

Florence has supported numerous charities throughout her life, including Share. Her generosity is inspired by her own experiences with adversity.

Born in Gilgandra, NSW, Florence and her family moved to Geelong when she was three years old. However, she was soon diagnosed with polio and this resulted in her losing the use of her left leg.

“In order to get to school I had a three-wheeled bike which I operated with a hand lever in my right hand,” she said.

“I worked on the family farm in Point Cook until I was 35, milking cows and doing general farm work. Yes, it was hard work but I could walk then so I could get around. It was during those years that I learnt to play the piano and sew and make clothes which helped me later in life.”

When asked what her proudest achievement was, Florence said it was learning how to drive a car. She had a special device installed so she didn’t have to use her left leg.

Throughout her life, Florence has been determined not to let her disability hold her back. She believes transforming the lives of people facing hardship is more important than focusing on her own impediments.

When her family moved to Drysdale, Florence helped at Sunday school by playing the piano and eventually became one of the organists at church. She also played the piano at Grace McKellar Aged Care Centre in Geelong every fortnight for 30 years.

Florence has always been an active and enthusiastic contributor to her local church communities. She started attending Noble Street Uniting Church in Geelong just before her mother passed away and has been a regular worshipper for the past 50 years. Although she never married, the church has come to symbolise family for Florence.

“I always try to talk about what our church does, and I always encourage people and talk about Share and how good it is,” she said.

Florence has lived at Brentwood Aged Care for the past six years. She is grateful for the assistance her carers have given her and wishes them all healthy and happy lives.

It is Florence’s hope that her bequest to Share will transform the lives of people who are less fortunate than her.

“My wish is that that the money goes to people who need it and to the programs that help them,” she said.

Share is hosting a high tea on Wednesday 5 October 2pm to recognise the contributions of Share supporters like Florence. It will feature musical performances from Wesley College’s The Wattle Quartet and speeches from David Buller (artist at Gifford Village, UnitingCare Harrison), Tim Bliss (Wesley College student and Share supporter), Maggie Bolger (participant at Prahran Mission) and Michael Walsh (CEO of UCA Funds Management).

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