ECH Independent Living Resident and client Chris got the surprise of her life when she received an email asking her if she would accept an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) at the Queen’s birthday honours.
Chris, who lives at ECH Victoria Court with her husband Bob, had no idea she had been nominated, or that Bob and his friend John had secretly gathered information for 18 months to nominate her!
“I was just like – wow,” said Chris, “I was so surprised.” Chris received the award at a special ceremony at Government House, for her service to veterans and their families during her time at The Partners of Veterans Association of Australia – SA Branch Inc. Chris joined in 2007, and went on to be the Assistant Secretary, Secretary and now President.
Chris actively cares for and advocates for the members on a range of issues – from payments and support for widows to support services for children of veterans.
“Being in a military family is very different and it can be difficult,” says Chris. “Through the Partners of Veterans our members feel like there’s always someone they can talk to and we help each other. We make sure that nobody feels isolated.”
Chris’ care for others started long before she reached retirement age. “I came out of a very violent marriage, which ended in a hostage situation and then living in a women’s refuge.”
“Once I got back on my feet I volunteered at the shelter.” It snowballed from there and Chris went on to spend her whole career helping others working in a range of areas including support for women and child protection.
At the same time Chris has spent 25 years battling Leukemia and just as she was starting to recover her husband Bob was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a recognised consequence of exposure to Agent Orange from serving in the navy in the Vietnam War.
With health issues making life trickier, the couple turned to ECH for support and received some Home Services, before deciding to move to ECH Victoria Court seven years ago.
Chris explains: “In our previous home we had a garden that was across six levels and it just became too much for us. We love Victoria Court. Being here allows us to live independently, which we enjoy. We have support for gardening, maintenance and the things we were finding hard.”
The couple love the community support in the village and are friends with the other residents. “It’s a lovely community and we all look after each other,” says Chris.
“If someone is away we check their letterbox and water their plants. Every bin day one of our neighbours brings in everyone’s bin after they have been collected.”
Chris was nominated for the OAM after a chance conversation between Bob and a friend John at their local bowls club. John who had an OAM himself pulled Bob aside and said “your wife deserves an OAM for everything she does in the community.”
With John’s help, Bob spent 18 months, gathering items like Chris’ resume and secretly getting references from her former bosses.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” says Bob. “She came from this terrible place in her first marriage to helping so many people.”
“She’s a very caring person. At one stage she was so unwell and on a walking frame and she just keeps going. In between she’s helping the grandchildren with their resumes and going to the gym three times a week. She’s a very special person.”
To find out more about the various ECH Independent Retirement Living options, visit ech.asn.au or call 1300 275 324.