THE salt of the earth, fiercely independent and with a devotion to community service is how Sheila Barrett will be remembered, says her son James.
Best known for her role in local Red Cross branches, Mrs Barrett died last Saturday after a short illness, aged 94.
Mr Barrett said his mother “did things her own way” right to the end and remained independent, still living on her property at Mepunga and refusing his advice to have some home help.
Mrs Barrett was born Sheila Youl and grew up at the St Kitts homestead in Yambuk before moving to the Naringal area in her early 20s. She married her husband, Norman, in 1948 and James was born the following year.
Mr Barrett said his mother would help district farmers with their milking and later managed Les Toohey’s farm when he became ill.
“I can remember her putting me on her shoulders and heading out into the paddock with the rabbit traps,” Mr Barrett said. “She would do anything she could to help other people.”
Mr Barrett said his mother was involved in the Naringal State School, serving on the committee as well the Naringal Tennis Club, where she played and coached.
He said she also became involved in the First Allansford Scouts after he joined as a cub and remained involved there for another 25 years.
But he said it was the Red Cross his mother was best known for, being involved with the Mepunga East branch for more than 60 years.
“She was a long-term secretary and held positions on the regional executive and was a long-term co-ordinator of the Red Cross Shop in Warrnambool,” he said.
“Mum spent about 60 or 70 years with the Red Cross and she loved every minute of it.
“She loved helping other people so the Red Cross was a perfect fit for her.”
Former Red Cross region five chairwoman Lorraine Eldridge said Mrs Barrett served as chairwoman of the region from 1972-1974 and was secretary from 1966-1968.
Mrs Eldridge described Mrs Barrett as a “wonderful lady”.
“Sheila was the salt of the earth. I was privileged to be regional chair during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Mepunga unit and to be able to work closely with her,” she said.
Another long-serving Mepunga unit member, Thelma Milne, said Mrs Barrett was a great source of knowledge for other Red Cross members.
“We joined on the same day, but she was contributing long before she became a member,” Ms Milne said.
“She knew the Red Cross like the back of her hand.
“If you needed to know anything about it, you would call Sheila.
“When she took on the co-ordinator’s role at the Red Cross Shop in Fairy Street she really made it her own.
“She became a good friend. We had a lot of fun working together on various fund-raisers.”
Mrs Barrett is survived by her son James and will be farewelled at a funeral service at Guyett’s Eastern Park chapel on May 13.