Numurkah Leader
Mona’s century

MONA Kelly may have lived most of her 100 years within a small circumference of space around her home, school and church on Tocumwal Rd Numurkah, but her life has been anything but small.

Mona has been a stalwart of the Numurkah community, serving as a committee member for around a dozen local sporting and community organisations over the years.

For 23 years Mona was a member of the Numurkah hospital board of management, including two terms as president.

She fitted all of this in around a busy working life in which she was a secretary for McNamara and Co Real Estate until their Numurkah office closed in 1969, at which time she joined Morrison and Teare Solicitors  as a bookkeeper until her retirement.

Mid-life saw Mona take on a new challenge, when she and her sister Joan took responsibility for three teenage nieces and nephews whose parents had passed away.

Though she had never married, the role of carer was a familiar one to Mona.

At the age of 11, Mona stepped up to help her mother raise her six younger siblings, the youngest of whom was just four months old, when her father died. 

Later, Mona, who had her share of suitors, turned down a marriage proposal in favour of caring for her ailing mother.

Any suggestion that Mona missed out on anything in life is pretty quickly put to rest by the woman herself, however.

“I’ve made the choices that suited me along the way, and I’ve always done what I wanted to do,” she said.

“You have to help out your family and community, that’s important to me, so I’ve always chosen to do that.”

Mona had early ambitions of being a nun; joining the Josephites who populated the convent across the road from her home, and who she thought were wonderful.

“I spoke to the nuns one day and they asked what I was doing now. I told them I was helping my mother and visiting people who didn’t have connections in the community. I always had lots of relations, and I thought it would be terrible to be lonely,” she said.

“The nuns told me that I should just keep doing that rather than join the convent, so I did.”

Whilst Mona’s life was about helping those who needed it, and caring for her family, she was no domestic goddess, and wasn’t one to offer comfort through food.

“I wasn’t one to go the oven and make scones or a casserole; I didn’t cook for people. I made pikelets occasionally, but mostly I just provided company.”

Whilst Mona says she’s ‘bounced in and out, backwards and forwards’ around her Tocumwal Road neighbourhood since she was born at Mrs Meiklejohn’s Saxton St hospital on September 23, 1919, she’s also found time to travel the world.

“On one trip to Europe with a friend of mine, we knew every hotel in Paris,” she said.

“Back in those days, people might have thought we were terrible, but we had a lot of fun.”

Though Mona’s travelling days are behind her, she still keeps up with the goings on in the world by diligently reading the Age, Shepparton News and Numurkah Leader

“When I was working in town as a young woman, we used to say that if you wanted to know the news you should just go the butcher shop at 8am every morning, because that’s where you’d hear what was going on in town,” she said.

Still a keen knitter, Mona does lament the loss of traditional skills that allowed people to make things for themselves.

However, as someone who can clearly remember a time before homes had hot running water, she is not one to rail against technological advances.

“The world is more comfortable now, and people are more connected, and those aren’t bad things.”