Lorraine and Graham O’Dell feel right at home in retirement, but it doesn’t mean they’ve had time for life to slow down.
When you meet Graham O’Dell, it’s apparent you can take the boy out of the farm but not the farm out of the boy. One of nine children born into a farming family on the outskirts of Tamworth – Graham learnt very early on how to turn his hand to anything, as farmers do.
At age 14 when he finished school, he packed his bags and left home with adventure on his mind. He found himself a job in Grafton timber hauling. From there, it was on to Moree droving before a stint in Newcastle where he worked in three different jobs.
Graham returned to Tamworth to work in the most satisfying job of his career, a hospital wardsman. His can-do attitude saw him step into a number of different jobs in Tamworth over time, including undertaker, used car salesman, swimming pool builder, bus driver and florist!
Graham and his wife Lorraine bought a florist shop in Tamworth not long after they met, and they ran the business together for 10 years. They recently celebrated 30 years of marriage.
“Lorraine was working at the Tamworth Golf Club as the Bar Manager when we met,” says Graham. “I chased her until she caught me! I was a keen golfer and golf club member for 44 years.”
Lorraine was also born in Tamworth where she lived with her parents and older brother. She lived in Adelaide, Armidale, and Canberra – she moved to Canberra to learn dental nursing after she finished school – but like Graham, Tamworth called her home.
Having spent most of her life working in retail and hospitality, the decision to purchase a florist shop with Graham seemed like a natural one to make.
“We worked hard and loved it,” says Lorraine.
“I remember we worked especially hard one Valentine’s Day,” says Graham. “We had 17 girls working in the shop, seven vans on the road and completed 850 deliveries. We worked 52 hours straight.”
“When we got home, we decided we deserved to relax in the spa, so we filled it up with hot water and bubbles – it was just what we needed,” says Lorraine. “But when I hopped in, I promptly fell asleep! I ended up with a face full of bubbles! I was exhausted.”
Graham and Lorraine retired after selling the florist shop, but their retirement was very short lived.
“I probably only lasted about six weeks,” says Graham. “I’m no good at sitting around doing nothing – so I went back to driving buses.”
“I wasn’t much good at retirement either,” says Lorraine. “I went back to work in the hospitality industry.”
Both Graham and Lorraine are happily retired now, and they’re even happier to be living at Oak Tree Retirement Village Tamworth.
They were living in a lovely home in Heritage Estate, Oxley Vale before their move, and even though the home was reasonably new, they decided the responsibilities were getting too much.
“We looked at one other village and it wasn’t a patch on what we’ve got here,” says Graham. “Oak Tree just felt right. So much so, we decided to buy on the day of our first visit. The manager showed us around and then we went for a wander ourselves. When we returned to the office, I shook his hand and said, meet your newest residents.”
“It was the best thing we could have done,” says Lorraine. “I’ve never looked back. I have plenty of time to continue my volunteering with the Salvation Army. There are lots of activities to join in with in the village if you want to – but there’s also no obligation to get involved.”
“The neighbours are fantastic. A few of us put on a golf putting afternoon once a month, and we end up with 18 to 20 people there each time. It’s great.”
“I still have plenty to keep me busy,” says Graham. “I give the other residents a hand whenever help is needed, and I love being able to look after my own garden. But I know when I can no longer do that there’s the most wonderful gardener here to take over from me.”
“We love it here. It’s home.”