A fellowship forged by war
THERE'S a special bond war widows share.
It's one that unites them, not in grief, but in laughter and a respectful commemoration of the men who bravely fought for the freedom Australia was built upon.
Bundaberg widow Jean Kelly knows this.
The 96-year-old Woondooma St resident joined the Bundaberg branch of the War Widows' Guild of Australia after her husband, Alfred John Terrens Kelly, died in 1995.
In that group, Mrs Kelly said she found solace and comfort, sharing her stories with others to ensure the memory of her late husband endured.
"I didn't realise there were so many war widows in Bundy," she said.
"We used to have widows meeting at the CWA.
"It was amazing to have people with similar circumstances."
Originally from Melbourne, Mrs Kelly and her late husband sold their home in Victoria and decided to travel Australia.
Bundaberg was one of their favourite spots to stop at.
"I was here in Bundaberg when my husband passed away in 1995," she said.
"I decided to stay here."
While her husband was fighting Germany during the Second World War, Mrs Kelly worked at a tobacco factory wrapping tobacco to be sent to the frontline.
"I was a milliner but I wasn't allowed to be a milliner during the war because it was a protected industry," she said.
"For every pound of tobacco you got a penny and you had to pack eight in a pack.
"That was good money back then."
When her husband returned to Australia in 1945, the couple decided four years apart was a long enough engagement.
"We went to town the next day and bought a wedding ring," she said.
"A week later we were married."
Every second Tuesday of the month Mrs Kelly walks from her West Bundaberg home to the War Widows' meeting at the RSL with a simple philosophy of 'get up, get dressed and go'.
While some familiar faces are no longer present at the meetings, Mrs Kelly happily provides the link to the past for the next generation.
"I have seen a lot of widows, that I have become good friends with, pass away," she said.
"I'm now fortunate that their daughters keep in touch with me."
War Widows' Guild of Australia Bundaberg Sub-Branch president Bronwen Mellick said stories like Mrs Kelly's showed the incredible value of the guild for war widows.
"It's lovely that the women of the husbands that fought for our country can meet once a month and interact and have a fellowship.
"Nobody knows what war widows go through expect war widows."
Mrs Mellick said that was why the Bundaberg branch had decided to recognise the importance of the guild with a ceremony to acknowledge the guild's founder, Jessie Mary Vasey, CBE, on October 19 - Vasey's birthday.
"She founded what we as war widows have today."
Mrs Mellick said all war widows and their families were invited to attend the ceremony and plant a cross in memory of a loved one who served.
Contact Gabby Ryan on 0402 268 794 for details.
War Widows' Day
What: White Cross Ceremony
When: Monday, October 19 at 11.30am
Where: Anzac Memorial Park