On Saturday the 10th October 2020, SI Region of South Queensland and SI Gold Coast had the joy of celebrating SISWP Life Member Florence Drury's 100th Birthday.
Dear Soroptimist Sisters
There have been many blessings of belonging to Soroptimist International over the past 34 years that I have been a member and on Saturday the 10th October 2020, we had the joy of celebrating Florence Drury's 100th Birthday. The party had been postponed due to Covid and social isolation so it was wonderful to have been able to get together with so many other Soroptimist Sisters and share this special occasion together. Janet James who is a member from Florence's Gold Coast Club shared these words about the extraordinary life of a very special woman who was very proactive in progressing the formation of our SISWP Federation in 1978 and who continues to this day to inspire us all.
When I grow up ... I want to have the same love for life and humanity as Florence does. As you can see by this photo there was a little secret or two shared between Florence, our SISQ Region President Vicki Bailey and myself.
It is moments like this that are a good reminder to us all as to why we are members of Soroptimist International and the joys that come from being of service to our Soroptimist Sisters globally, to each other and to our Community to improve the lives of women and girls. These are the stories that unite us not divide us and how wonderful that we actually have a member in SISWP that is older than our SI Emblem and who still holds true to our aims and objectives. I have also received over 120+ messages via Facebook from SI Sisters around the world who have also shared their best wishes to Florence which I will pass on to her.
Chris Knight Soroptimist International Moreton North Inc. Australia / SISWP Advisory Committee
SI Chatliner / SI Global Ambassador / SI Aotearoa New Zealand Honorary Ambassador / SI Truly Asia Ambassador
The LIFE & TIMES of FLORENCE DRURY - 100 YEARS words shared by Janet James from SI Gold Coast Club Australia SISWP on 10th October 2020
Florence … We’re here today to celebrate your life, and the brightness that you have brought to the lives of others. We had to cancel your Soroptimist birthday dinner back in March, the real month of your birthday. But we couldn’t let such a milestone go past without acknowledging it … even though you keep reminding us that you are now 100 years and 7 months old this week! How lucky are we all, today, to be celebrating Florence’s 100 years of life! 100 years! It’s almost inconceivable, isn’t it. A life well-lived.
From 1920 to 2020 .. with more to come! Apparently, there are more centenarians living today than ever before. Statistics show that they have been remarkably healthy over their life course, so that would be the main contributor to longevity.
Florence often says “I’ve just got good genes”. So good genes must play a part, too. Over those 100 years, though, we’ve witnessed some of the most profound changes in human history.
Florence was born when the world was still experiencing the after effects of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic - and here we are today with the 2020 pandemic. There have been wars, amazing technological developments, progress in civil rights,
and breakthroughs in science and medicine and all sorts of discoveries.
A milestone of interest when Florence was born in 1920 — That year a group of women in California began discussions to form a women’s group dedicated to service and offering friendship … with an international scope. The concept of Soroptimist International was borne. Little did baby Florence know then what an influence that would eventually have on her life. The history books also show that 1920 in Ireland was the beginning of a major sectarian conflict, but … 1920 in Belfast Ireland was, also, the beginning of life for a sweet little Irish lass. And I ask you, now, to listen to a very brief story of the “Life and Times of Florence Drury”. How one can be brief covering 100 years, I’m not sure … but I will give it a go. I am sure you will find it interesting.
Born in Belfast on 14th March, 1920, Florence Jane McIllhagger (Mc-gill-agg-er), her parents and younger sister Norah migrated to Australia in 1926. They settled in Kingsgrove, a suburb of Sydney. Florence went to school but left at the age of 14. These were the Depression years, and Florence’s contribution to the family economy, working as a buyer for Farmers Department store, was vital, particularly as her father, like so many others, had been retrenched. For enjoyment, Florence joined an amateur dramatic society where she became friends with one of the other players — Arthur Weaver. Years later, she was thrilled when Arthur and his English wife, Edith, asked Florence to be godmother to their now famous daughter, Jacki Weaver.
Florence joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942 and undertook six months training as a Wireless Telegraphist (radio operator). After graduating, she was posted to the RAAF Eastern Area Headquarters base in Townsville, travelling there by train. She remembers it as a long journey. Her Townsville post was for three years. I recall Florence telling me that the American President’s wife, Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, visited the RAAF base to thank the Australians for looking after the American troops based in Townsville at that time. In Townsville, Florence’s friend Hazel had a boyfriend by the name of Roy, and his mate was none other than John Drury. John was part of the Army’s transport division driving trucks all around the country.
The romance didn’t blossom, though, until after the war when Florence and John met again at Hazel and Roy’s wedding. Florence and John married in 1948 in Sydney - John was still driving trucks whilst Florence was the homemaker raising their two daughters, Jan born in 1950 and Pam born in 1955. Florence and baby Pam struggled for the first few weeks after the birth, but both made it through … thanks to the expertise of Dr William McBride (a familiar name, I am sure, to many of you).
In 1957, the couple took a risk and purchased a general store and newsagency in the village of Brooklyn on the Hawkesbury River, NSW. Then in 1960, having made a success of their first retailing venture, they purchased an electrical goods retail business in the rural town of Griffith, west of Sydney. Soon after, they joined the Retravision buying group, becoming the first Retravision store in country NSW. During this period, both being very community minded, they became involved many organisations including the Uniting Church, the Chamber of Commerce and the Masonic Lodge, to name a few. They were highly regarded in the Griffith community. And, in 1962, Florence became a Soroptimist and held many positions in SI Griffith club, including President (1968 and 1969). And, as well as being electrical goods retailers, they branched into the Real Estate industry and Florence, who by then was in her fifties, completed a TAFE course in order to gain her real estate qualifications. She went on to continue her education completing courses in Commercial Law and Accountancy. In 1972, lured by the climate, Florence and John moved to the Gold Coast where they purchased a men’s wear business at Nobby’s Beach. They initially settled at Broadbeach, then moved to Ashmore, and finally to Helensvale — where Florence still lives today, on her own. Once more, Florence and John became very involved in community activities, … and Florence is currently a member of Helensvale Probus Club (which husband John founded), Helensvale Senior Citizens Club and Southport Uniting Church.
Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific
The 1970s was a very exciting time for Soroptimism in Australia, as moves were afoot to form a new Federation. At that time, clubs in Australia were part of the Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, of which an Australian, Miss Thelma Jarrett MBE, was President. Florence was now a member of SI Surfers Paradise and it was during this time, in 1974, that she and a senior Soroptimist, Mrs Nancy Cram, travelled to Bristol UK to attend the 40th Anniversary Conference of Clubs of Great Britain and Ireland. They were the only Australians attending the Conference. Then, from 1976 to 1981, Florence held the Soroptimist position of President of Divisional Union of Queensland. (The whole of Queensland).
She travelled the length of Queensland, attending to the duties that the position required of her. And it was during this period, that the Federation of the South West Pacific was finally chartered — in 1978, with just three countries - Australia, NZ and Fiji under the Presidency of Mary Whitehead. There are now 13 countries in our Federation. In 1981, unfortunately, SI Surfers Paradise club folded and Florence transferred to SI Brisbane, attending meetings whenever she could, while still living, and working full time, on the Gold Coast.
In 1986, Sth Qld Soroptimist Audrey Peacock began negotiating for a new club to be chartered on the Gold Coast, ably assisted by Florence and Leigh Ellwood-Brown, and the new club, SI Gold Coast, was chartered on 11th July 1987. In 1989, Florence was made a Life Member of SI Gold Coast. In 2006, Florence’s dear husband John passed away after being unwell for a few years. Florence still speaks warmly of how John had always been a wonderful supporter of her service to Soroptimism. In 2009, SI Gold Coast, in partnership with the Region of South Queensland, created the Florence Drury Award in honour of Florence’s spirited contribution to transforming the lives of women and girls throughout the world. Florence has always maintained a broad range of interests and is a keen follower of current affairs. Even though her formal education ceased at age 14, she has never stopped learning. A true Soroptimist. Her knowledge of vocabulary, history, geography, politics and literature far outweighs most people her junior. She currently takes great pleasure in challenging herself against the participants of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”. And her answers are almost always correct!
Florence and John travelled widely together, and Florence has continued to do so right up to her 100 years. Over the years, she has visited the USA, Europe, Ireland, Singapore, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, NZ and Fiji … to name a few … as well, of course, around Australia … and enjoyed a number of cruises. So … Florence has two children, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren, who are all so proud that she has made a wonderful life for herself and still continues to be independent and contribute to the community, even at the remarkable age of 100 years old. There’s a saying I’ve heard … and I think it very much applies to Florence. "Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."
Florence … this day is a memorable and wonderful day for all of us here, and you have our gratitude for providing the opportunity for us to be a part of it. "100 years" of memories and 100 years of life… You are very special, Florence, and honour is due to you for all the great experiences that life has given you. You've done more in a lifetime than others can only dream, and you are the most amazing 100 year old that we have ever known. Thank you for being my friend. Happy 100 years!
SI Gold Coast Australia SISWP.