Woody Point great grandmother celebrates her 102nd birthday

Published 1:00pm 20 May 2022

Woody Point great grandmother celebrates her 102nd birthday
Words by Ashleigh Howarth

The secret to living a long and happy life is to always keep calm and don’t fret the small stuff, according to Avis Hall.

Living her best carefree life and taking things as they come has led Avis to marking a big milestone today – her 102nd birthday.

“I have lived a wonderful and happy life,” Avis said.

“I’ve had opportunities to do things and I have always enjoyed everything what I did.

“I have no regrets because I took things as they come and made the best of it.

“You have to stay calm and don’t fret the small things. Get them out of the way because fretting doesn’t do anything.”

Her daughter Avis-Ann says her mum’s positive attitude and her philosophy of living life to it’s fullest every day has ensured they can spend more time together.

“Mum has always been a calm person, she has never smoked, she doesn’t drink alcohol, and all her life she has been fit,” Avis-Ann says.

“She reads a lot – she likes to read murder mysteries.

“Mum also loves to watch sports – sometimes she will get up in the middle of the night and watch the tennis in England.

“She loves to read the paper, and follows the sport and politics, but she will never tell you who she is voting for because it’s a secret.

“She also loves gardening, which I heard is really good for you.”

To celebrate her big day, Avis will be spending time with her friends.

“I have been invited to our Ex-Service Women’s annual dinner, which just happens to be on my birthday this year,” she said.

Avis is the oldest person in the group, and the only person to have served during WWII.

Her family has also planned a birthday party for her tomorrow.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Avis’s family had to unfortunately cancel her 100th birthday party in 2020.

Instead, they held a double celebration last year to make up for it.

An incredible life

Avis Isabelle Rail was born on May 20, 1920, in Mourilyan, near Innisfail, to parents Nicholas and May Rail.

She was the youngest of two children, with Avis idolising her brother Bill, who was two years older than her.

Avis loved following Bill and his friends around and even became a tomboy herself.

After leaving school, Avis worked as a telephonist at the Mourilyan telephone exchange.

When Woolworths opened a store in Innisfail, Avis applied for a job.

She hadn’t been there for very long before she was moved to the office where she looked after pay slips, did the banking and paid bills.

Avis also joined the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (AAMWS) and then the Army – a pivotal role in WWII.

“When I got the call up, I had gone on holidays to Charters Towers and my mother rang me to say my callup had arrived,” Avis said.

“I told her I would come home straight away, so she sent a wire to say that I would be a bit delayed because I was away on holidays.

“But they sent back word that it didn’t matter, and that I could have Christmas at home and go in the January call up.

“We looked after the hospitals, blood banks and the medical part of nursing.”

Avis was at the 2/2ND Australian General Hospital on the Atherton Tablelands. When the hospital closed and patients were transferred across the country, Avis once again worked as a telephonist, where she saw out the end of the war.

When she returned to Innisfail in 1946, Avis once again worked for Woolworths. 

It was a few short months later at the staff Christmas party that she would meet Eric Hall, the man she would marry.

“His sister worked with me, and she told him to come to the party because there was a girl he had to meet,” Avis said.

“I didn’t get to talk to him much because there was another guy at the party who was a real flirt, and he was talking to me a lot.

“I wasn’t going to go with this guy because I didn’t trust how much he flirted.”

Eric was in luck with a second chance to woo Avis, this time at a picnic. 

“It was full steam ahead,” Avis says.

They married on January 15, 1948, at St Alban's Church of England in Innisfail.

They had three children, but sadly their eldest child Linda, who was born in 1949, passed away in 1951 from Spina bifida.

“We didn’t know much about Spina bifida in those days. She had to have an operation when she was 36 hours old, and then another one at eight months.

“Then she became ill the following year. She went into the children’s hospital but she didn’t survive because while she was in there, she got Dysentery (an infection of the intestines) from being in hospital and it was just too much for her little body.

“She was 23 months old.

“In that time, I got to know her personality. It was a wonderful 23 months getting to know her.”

Avis-Ann, who was born in 1951, was only a few months old when Linda passed away.

A few years later, Graham was born in 1956.

The family moved around a lot as Eric worked with the National Australia Bank. In 1973 he came to be the manager at the National Australia Bank in Margate, which was the last branch he worked at before he retired in 1982.

The couple fell in love with Moreton Bay and bought a house in Woody Point in 1974, where Avis still lives today.

Avis and Eric were married for 61 years before he passed away in 2009.

Together, they have five grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

Plenty of happy memories

Daughter Avis-Ann described her mum as somebody who would do anything for anyone, and was always prim and proper.

“Our life was different to people who just grew up in one town. We got transferred from town to town and wherever we went, mum was always very prim and proper, but she was also very welcoming,” Avis-Ann said.

“Dad was the life of the party and he always invited people to dinner, sometimes at short notice

“And because mum always wanted it to be perfect, she would still set the table properly with the silver, crystal and linen tablecloths.

“Growing up there was always an air of fun, and hustle and bustle, with dad coming and going to meetings or organising events.

“But mum was always in the background being quietly supportive and loyal.

“She was a great role model, and she was always a lady with a quirky sense of humour.

“On her 100th birthday, she told me she had decided to make life a little easier on herself and lower her standards.

“She was going to stop ironing her gardening clothes at 100 years of age.”

Memorable moments

There’s a saying that you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

That is certainly the case for Avis, who has lived a happy life full of love, helping others, spending time with family and travelling.

Highlights of her life include travelling to Europe, America, India, Zimbabwe, China, exploring parts of Australia, as well as attending the Brisbane Commonwealth Games and Expo 88.

Avis also loves spending time near the water at Tangalooma and Coolangatta, where she holidays with her family.

Staying fit is the key

Avis may be 102-years-old, but she loves to joke that she still has plenty of strength left in her muscles.

With help from Halle Pearce, who works at BodySmart Health, Avis can still live independently.

Halle sees Avis a couple of times a week and together they go through a number of exercises and stretches that help with her balance and mobility.

Halle says Avis is an incredible woman who is adored by everyone.

“She is a shining light and loved by everyone down at BodySmart, including the staff and clients,” Halle says.

“She’s very committed, motivated and determined to do all her exercises, and I am so impressed by how well she does them.

“She’s fitter than some of the younger clients!”


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