A family reunion spanning four generations

Posted on Monday, March 8, 2021

Thanks to Brightwater’s Light up a Life at Christmas appeal, clients like Shirley from Brightwater Joondalup, are having their wishes come true.

Shirley's wish was to spend time with her family - all 54 children, grand-children and great grand-children - and last Sunday she got her wish with a surprise celebration!

Brightwater hosted a surprise family reunion at the Kingsway Court Retirement Village Function Centre.

Shirley has always been the beating heart of the very big Withnell family, and it’s no wonder why.

About Shirley

Shirley June Withnell is 92 years old. The youngest of eight children, Shirley grew up during the depression and left school at 14, to work in the nearby movie theatre shop.

After the war Shirley was a tailor of men’s suit coats, which came in handy making clothes for her six children. Shirley was married to Ronald Withnell for 55 years before he passed away in 2002.

She entertained her kids with games, stories and songs, many of which have been passed on to grandkids and great grandkids, Mary Ellen at the church turned up and There was an old lady who swallowed a fly. Her family is everything.  She was quite a good dancer too, often talking about Saturday night dances in Maylands and enjoying The Pride of Erin or the Maxina.   

Later in life Shirley travelled throughout Australia, by car and by train. She has never been on an aeroplane or a sea cruise, but has caravanned and stayed in almost every WA town from Esperance to Kununurra, throughout the Northern Territory, South Australia and Victoria. She loves trips to see the ocean crashing into rocks, tall trees in the forests, but mostly she loves the red dirt country. The Kimberley, Uluru, and Coober Pedy are some of her favourite spots, but she has many more, she is the family “I’ve been everywhere (wo)man”.

Since August 2019, Shirley has lived at Brightwater Joondalup, and enjoys her Audio Books, loves a mystery novel and anything Australiana.  She also listens to music from her youth and loves watching Hollywood musicals.  Her love knows no bounds, she is good for a joke, and she is witty and cheeky.

Shirley has always been supporting, loving and caring for her family throughout their lives; and that is how she is to everyone she meets. Her six children and partners, 17 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren are very proud of everything she has achieved and passed on to the family.

Shirley’s daughter, Dawn, said the family reunion was enjoyed by all.

“Mum was very surprised and you couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. To see and spend precious time with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren is the greatest gift of all to her. It will stay in our memories forever.”