By Lachlan Ellis
She moved from the Mallee to Ballan 66 years ago, and a soon-to-be 100-year-old woman is looking forward to celebrating the milestone with family and friends.
Lyla Geary (née Gleeson) was born on 13 August 1923 in Pira, a sandy wheat growing hamlet near Swan Hill, the second of seven children born to James and Susan Gleeson.
She’s seen many changes during her life, with some of the more notable being the advent of the washing machine replacing the scrubbing board, and the car replacing “our slow old horse”.
She acknowledges that life “has its ups and downs”, with the challenges she’s experienced including drought, mice plagues, and the sadness of the Second World War in her younger years – the latter of which she recalls as “a terrible time where each day you would scan the newspaper to see which of your friends wasn’t returning home”.
But despite the hard times, Ms Geary says her childhood was a happy one, and the happiest moments in her life have been having her four children, and marrying her husband Jack in 1948.
As many couples of their time did, Lyla and Jack met at a country dance, with Jack being from nearby Chillingollah. The two moved from the area in March 1957 with the four young kids.
“We didn’t have much [when I was a kid], very little in fact, but we were happy. We had one another,” she told the Moorabool News.
“I never thought I’d make it to 100, I never really thought about it to be honest. My family have been marvellous to me.”
As for a secret to a long life, Ms Geary said there wasn’t anything in particular she’s done that might have contributed to the upcoming milestone, but living a “country lifestyle” and being strongly involved with the community may have helped.
Ms Geary has seven children, 11 grandchildren, and four great grandchildren, and says “family is everything to me”.
“Having a family and watching them grow and teaching them to keep going, despite difficulties has always been important to Jack and I. When you have children, you need to encourage them and show a real interest yourself,” she said.
And show an interest she has over the years – Ms Geary was Treasurer of the Ballan Tennis Club for 17 years and is a Life Member, was involved in St. Brigid’s Church groups and activities, undertook various roles at St. Brigid’s School Mother’s Club, is a member of St. Vincent De Paul, the local Care Group, and delivered Meals on Wheels for many years.
On Sunday 13 August, family and friends of Ms Geary will gather at an Open House celebration at the Ballan Golf Club from 2 to 5pm to celebrate her 100th birthday.
While she is far from the hot Mallee sun she grew up under, after being in Ballan for 66 years, Ms Geary now sees it as home.