Life has been a grand adventure so far for Pam Francis. Born near Ipswich in East Anglia in the UK, she is now enjoying retirement in Mudgee, NSW. The path she took to get there has been generous with its rewards.
Pam enjoyed a wonderful childhood but remembers that it was at 19 years of age that the real adventure began when she joined the Royal Air Force.
While stationed in Andover, one of Pam’s girlfriends set her up to go on a blind date.
“We went to the pictures and saw the movie The Great Caruso,” says Pam. “My date, Alan, was very charming and brought along a lovely box of chocolates for me. I had the box on my lap and when we stood for the National Anthem, I forgot they were there, so they fell on the floor. Not exactly what he had in mind.”
It turned out that Pam and Alan were stationed together. Their friendship developed into romance, and after six months of dating they were engaged. They married on 21 February 1953 in the English township of Bognor Regis.
By this time, they had both been released from their Royal Air Force duties and Alan had taken a job in a timber mill.
Feeling limited by the opportunities available to them, on Christmas Eve 1956 Pam and Alan left the UK bound for Sydney. They came as ‘10 Pound Poms’, and while they weren’t sure how long they would stay – they knew it had to be at least two years in order to avoid having to repay the full cost of their passage. That was 64 years ago!
“We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived,” says Pam. “We even wondered if there might be kangaroos on the streets!”
“We both found work at the Gladesville Mental Hospital and settled into life. We couldn’t have been happier. But Alan took a job as the Sheriff at the Supreme Court in Sydney, and from that position he became the Sheriff at Parkes – that’s where our daughter and son were born – we were in Parkes for five-and-a-half years.”
The adventure continued as new work opportunities and promotions arose for Alan. The family returned to Sydney for a time before moving to Wollongong, Wagga Wagga, back to Sydney and then to Lismore, where they stayed for 40 years.
“We enjoyed each place we lived and didn’t feel like moving on, but then when we arrived at the next place we enjoyed that too,” says Pam. “We made the most of every opportunity we had.”
Their years of retirement together brought just as much joy to Pam and Alan as their working life did.
“I took up golf and thoroughly enjoyed it – there was a social game on a Monday and a more serious competition on a Wednesday,” says Pam. “I made some great friends.”
“We had a nice big home and I loved spending time in the garden. Alan didn’t like the garden so much – he mostly cut the grass and left everything else to me. It was getting to be a lot for us to manage.”
“Our daughter and her husband were considering retirement themselves when they bought a home in Bombira, just north of Mudgee. They said they’d love it if we could move closer to them. Alan said yes, and so we set to work to pack everything up.”
Pam’s daughter-in-law first became aware of Oak Tree Retirement Villages on a visit to Lismore, and when she learnt that one was under construction in Mudgee, the family investigated. They visited Oak Tree Dubbo to help them imagine the possibilities and loved the size and sense of community. Pam and Alan signed up and were the first residents to Oak Tree Mudgee on 4 April 2019.
Sadly, Alan suffered a stroke and passed away on 30 May 2019. It was the most difficult time Pam had ever faced. She misses Alan dearly but takes strength from the support she receives from her family and her new Oak Tree Mudgee neighbours.
“This really feels like home,” says Pam. “I have a new garden – one that’s a much better size for me. There’s a real sense of friendship and community spirit. Everyone is like-minded and we all have each other. We check up on one another every day, and we do lovely things together – but there’s never any problem if you don’t feel like joining in.”
Pam does love to join in with things and her neighbours are very happy when she does because very often there’s a plate of Pam’s famous homemade sausage rolls involved. The plate is always empty when she takes it home.