SOMERVILLE resident Brenda Thornell has spent her life doing things for her community, but recognition for that has come as a bit of a “shock”, said the 88-year-old.
Thornell has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her service to the community of the Mornington Peninsula.
“I certainly didn’t expect this, I just got involved in things because that’s what you do in small communities,” she said.
“When you live in a small town all your life, you know everyone, and you help everyone out if you can.
“I didn’t think about it much, I just did.
“I remember one of the first things I got involved in for the community was the push to get a basketball court for Somerville, but back when netball was called basketball,
“And then when I got married in the 1955, the basketball girls formed a guard of honour at my wedding, it really was lovely.”
Thornell has been involved with the Somerville, Tyabb and District Heritage Society since 1966 and has been secretary since 1997.
Her late husband George was a builder and, after he semi-retired from building and in 1963 they opened a hardware store in Somerville to service the growing population and provide the materials for all the new houses going up.
“When I was a girl Somerville only had a couple of hundred people, but later lots of people moved and there was nowhere to buy hardware, so that’s what we did and we got to know a lot of new families through it,” she said.
Thornell also formed a choir with friends in 1963 and would perform for free with the group at community events for close to 40 years.
“We sang at Red Cross events, sang for the Lions Club and a whole lot of other community events, it was enjoyable and a way of giving back,” she said.
The mother of two, grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of four was also a councillor at the former Shire of Hastings.
“We really wanted a swimming pool for Somerville, so I guess it was because I used to poke my nose into things that I got on council to push for a pool,” she said.
“Somerville was growing, and we had nothing here, there was nothing for young people to do and a bit of vandalism started at that time.
“It took a long time, but Somerville finally got a rec centre and so after one term on council I felt my work was done.”
Over the decades she has been involved with the Mornington Peninsula Shire through her community memberships, she helped get the fruit growing machinery shed project up and running in 2011, and has been involved with the Somerville Tennis Club, the Somerville Bowling Club, and the Somerville Baby Health Centre (1960-1962).
She also helped raise money to build the Somerville Scout Hall and was treasurer for the Somerville Social Set.
“I just love living in Somerville and being part of the community, we are in the middle of everything,” she said.
“And I don’t think I’ve done that much really, but my children and grandchildren think the OAM is fantastic.”