Stawell's Jo Fuller keeping people mobile

STAWELL - 'Keeping people mobile' has been the goal of Stawell's next Golden Gift, Jo Fuller.

Although Jo and her husband Graham have lived in Pomonal for the past 40 years, she has had a strong involvement with many organisations around Stawell.

Many of her roles have stemmed from her work as an occupational therapist, which she retired from in 1995.

Jo came to Australia from New Zealand on a holiday in 1962 and met Graham in 1964. While she has been back to visit her home country many times, she is well and truly content living in Pomonal.

As well as raising two children, Ross and Julie, the former New Zealander has worked as a volunteer, helping to establish the Stawell Toy Library which was run out of the Stawell Library many years ago and was also a part of the Community Learning Group which was based at the Community Centre in Wimmera Street.

However, the highlight of Jo's work as a volunteer was establishing the 'Healthy Lifestyle Holidays', which saw her and other volunteers take the elderly away for holidays.

"The Healthy Lifestyle Holidays were fantastic. We went to Bright for a week, Swan Hill, Victor Harbour, Mount Gambier, Lake Bonney on the river (in South Australia)," Jo said.

"We went from Sunday to Friday and the idea was that people could have a holiday with care."

Jo was involved with the program for 21 years and there were two trips organised per year before it stopped due to a lack of funding.

"They still run little camps to Halls Gap, but these got people to do things outside their comfort zone completely," she said.

After retiring from her role as an occupational therapist, Jo teamed up with Graham and the husband and wife duo turned their backyard into Pomonal Lavender Farm.

They sold many lavender products including soaps, body lotions and even edibles such as ice cream, as well as guiding visitors around the farm and offering lunches.

"It was something we could do together," Jo said.

"We had the opportunity, the land and the drive to do it. It was fun researching everything. Graham would do the distilling of the products and we had a couple of staff.

"It was a good adventure."

The pair ran the lavender farm for 12 years and decided after that time, they would give it up and go travelling.

Despite not running a business anymore, it hasn't stopped Jo from remaining active within the town.

Jo and Graham are involved in the Stawell Regional Arts Company and she is currently president of the Gold Reef Ladies Probus Club. Jo also holds positions on the Stawell Hospital Ladies Auxiliary and Riding for the Disabled.

Jo also takes an over 50s exercise class at the Stawell Leisure Complex for an hour every Monday, something she has done for 19 years.

"It's been a wonderful thing to do really. I never thought I'd lead it, that wasn't the idea, but it makes me do something as well."

Jo also keeps active by swimming three mornings a week in summer at the Halls Gap Pool, saying it was important to remain active.

She also said she has been very fortunate to experience the opportunities volunteer work has had to offer, and was inspired as a youngster growing up on a dairy farm in New Zealand.

"Your whole life is doing volunteer work there," she said.

"I think if you've got any gifts, you should use them. It's like that with volunteering - you get far more back than you give."

Jo said Graham has been wonderful throughout their years together, and also praised the towns of both Pomonal and Stawell.

"You try to involve the local community as much as possible (and) one of the most important things is to not have regrets," she said.

Jo Fuller's story is the third in a series of six featuring Stawell's Golden Gifts that are being published in The Stawell Times-News over the summer.

This series is brought to you by Navarre Minerals, who are proud to be part of the Stawell community.

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