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19 June, 2020

Harriett ‘Merle’ Byrnes celebrated her 100th birthday on the 23rd of May in iso-style at BaptistCare Orana Centre as resident life continues to reflect extra precautions due to COVID-19.

Amy Jones, Lifestyle and Volunteers Coordinator at the Point Clare centre, assured that the restrictions did not dampen celebrations.

“Merle was very excited to receive visits from a couple of close friends and her nieces in our Safe Visitor Zone during her birthday week and on the day of her birthday,” says Amy.

“They brought in sweets and gifts for her.”

Merle is extremely hard of hearing so she had Chaplain Sharon Clark by her side to help relay what her friends were saying.

“Merle remains positive despite her hearing and sight impairments. She always thanks people for stopping to talk to her, and when I ask her how she is, she often replies, “I am grateful for God’s many blessings in my life, I have so much to be thankful for,”’ said Sharon.

“I always feel uplifted and encouraged after I have seen Merle.”

BaptistCare Orana hosted a party for Merle with her fellow residents. “We decorated the dining room and enjoyed a cake together,” said Amy.

“She was assisted in unwrapping her gifts which included hand-cream, a scarf, chocolates and a hand-made blanket from the knitting group here at Orana. We also gave her a colourful indoor plant to bring a little of the garden, which she loves so much, indoors.”

“Merle was thrilled and so grateful.”

Merle was born in Australia in 1920, and recalls growing up surrounded by animals and riding a pony. She was involved in Christian Endeavour as a young person at Dubbo and Gilgandra.

Merle excelled through life’s turns and changes - particularly in various locations - with an eye for beauty and design. She worked as a domestic assistant in hospitals in both Orange, and in Wellington, New Zealand. In Wellington, Merle won three prizes for her needlework.

Back home, she excelled as a seamstress for Jantzen – a global brand of swimwear that began in America around 1910 and still operates today. The first Australian Jantzen factory opened in Lidcombe between Mons and Ostend streets in 1928.

Merle has always found comfort in the garden. She loves sitting in the garden and looking at the trees, the sky and the flowers. In her earlier life, she would decorate churches with flowers and prepare floral arrangements for weddings. In the 1930’s, her exceptional talent was recognised publicly and she took home various prizes for her floral displays.

Merle married. Her husband passed away over 50 years ago. They didn’t have any children. A committed Christian all her life, Merle later attended the Narara Valley Baptist Church.

From all of the team at BaptistCare, we wish Merle a very happy 100th turn around the sun.