TO reach the grand old age of 90 is always a bonus in life but for life-long resident Gloria Reading celebrating with her family and close friends was a true blessing.
Born at the Darene Hospital, Gunnedah, on August 23, 1927, Gloria was the treasured only child of World War 1 veteran Herbert Charles Barnes and his wife Lena Davis-Powers.
Gloria attended Gunnedah Public School and Gunnedah Intermediate High School before moving on to Sr Vincent’s Business College at St Mary’s College.
It was a trip down memory lane for the nonagenarian as she reminisced about her childhood with two old friends, Val Campbell of Gunnedah, and Betty Cross of Werris Creek. Betty and Gloria started school together and have remained close friends all their lives.
It was a joy-filled occasion for the whole family with Gloria surrounded by three generations as she cut the cake made by her grand-daughter Monique Dunn.
Gloria has enjoyed a rich and fulfilling life. After completing her Leaving Certificate, she was keen to study economics but with her mother in poor health she decided to complete her degree by correspondence. In 1943, she took up a position at Gunnedah Municipal Council – a time when all rate notices were written by hand.
George Reading came into her life at a local cricket match and they married at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, on April 3, 1948, beginning their life together on the Reading family property, Argyle, 40kms along the Quia Road.
The couple’s life revolved around farming and their family of four children -John, Bronwyn, Kerry and Chris - and the Goolhi Soldier Settlement, where a school, village hall and tennis courts were erected by the settlers.
With no electricity until 1955 and the access road subject to flooding from Dunnadee Creek, life was never dull at Argyle, with two babies from neighbouring properties delivered on the farm.
When George became the sub-agent for the fuel supplier Shell, Gloria became the bowser attendant at Argyle as well as the book-keeper.
In 1971, the couple bought a general store in Conadilly Street opposite, Gloria’s childhood home and while George commuted to Argyle, Gloria ran the business for the next 17 years.
The couple moved into semi-retirement after selling their shop and purchasing a home in Wentworth Street. Gloria had become a keen volunteer with the St Vincent de Paul Society and it was this interest, along with the love and support of family and friends that helped her through George’s battle with cancer and his death in 1991.
Over the years, Gloria has contributed enormously to the welfare of local residents with her budget counseling skills and empathy put to good use at the centre over many decades. In January 2016, she was honoured with a Papal Blessing from Pope Francis and is still a familiar face at the St Vincent de Paul Centre twice a week.
Gloria’s family came from far and wide for the celebration, with her son John travelling from Hong Kong and Chris from Toormina to join their sisters Bronwyn McGinnity, of Boggabri, and Kerry Ewing, of Gunnedah.
“It was so lovely to have all the family together for a happy occasion, especially seeing all Mum’s grandkids and great-grandkids having so much fun,” Kerry Ewing said.
“We are very blest to have our Mum and to have her so good at 90.”