A picture of kindness: that's Iris at 90

COUNTLESS lives have been saved by hospital equipment bankrolled by Iris Bickley’s fund-raising efforts — though the lady herself is too humble to even contemplate the thought.

The 90-year-old was recognised for four decades of work on auxiliaries aiding Warrnambool Base Hospital yesterday morning, surrounded by fellow board members who have become her firm friends.

“It’s quite a surprise. A pleasant surprise to be recognised but everyone in the auxiliary contributes to the hospital,” the retired teacher said.

“All the ladies in the auxiliary participate because they have a strong interest in providing the best quality health care for the Warrnambool district and you can see that the money is spent well.”

Mrs Bickley first became involved in hospital auxiliary work while living in Caramut in the early 1970s — her fund-raising efforts extending from the shearing shed to the town hall.

“The big sheep sales were where the main fund-raising occurred because you had the whole district in the one spot at the one time,” she said.

“We would make tea for the workers, which wasn’t an easy task given we had to boil up the copper at the (town) hall and then travel all the way back to the shearing shed to serve everyone.

“The auxiliary used to hold monthly card parties, which were popular at that time, and families from the surrounding soldier settlements would take part.”

South West Healthcare chief executive John Krygger said Mrs Bickley had long been an outstanding member of the community, investing her efforts in a number of good causes apart from the hospital.

“Iris is as sharp as a tack, has boundless energy and just a delightful person that puts others before herself,” he said.

Mr Krygger presented the long-serving assistant secretary with a portrait of herself created by young artist Georgina Sambell.

The artwork was submitted at last year’s Warrnibald competition where the region’s artists are challenged to paint or draw a portrait of a well-known south-west identity.

“I noticed the artwork had been sold — which I thought was great — but I didn’t know who bought it,” Mrs Bickley said.

“I’m so pleased to receive it. It’ll take pride of place at home.”

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