Family, faith and love of country have seen Jean through a long and varied life

Celebrating Great-Nan: Jean Boxsell celebrated her 100th with her family including many of her great-grandchildren. Picture: Chris Lane
Celebrating Great-Nan: Jean Boxsell celebrated her 100th with her family including many of her great-grandchildren. Picture: Chris Lane

A fierce love of family, faith and country has sustained Sutherland Shire resident Jean Boxsell through a long and eventful life.

Mrs Boxell celebrated her 100th birthday on September 30 at the Nagel Apartments in Sutherland. The day before she held a family gathering surrounded by her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She was born Jean McDonald at the Women’s Hospital, Paddington, the daughter of May and William McDonald, and grew up in Maitland, Melbourne and Paddington.

Her father had served in France in WWI and returned home to work as a chauffeur.

She  worked as a machinist and during the Depression went to Harden to work and there she met her future husband, Percy Boxsell who worked as a miner in the tin mines.

They married in 1939 and had two daughters, Maria and Pamela, living at Ardlethan where temperatures in summer could reach 45 degrees C.

The family moved back to Paddington and then to Sylvania Heights where another daughter, Jennifer was born.

“When we moved to Sylvania Heights it was very different to now,” daugther Maria McIlwain said. “It was all dirt roads and there were only several buses a day to Hurstville.”

When her husband died in 1970, Mrs Boxsell moved to Miranda.

Mrs McIlwain said her mother has always been a resilient person.

“She lived in a flat at Miranda and up until she was 99 she walked up 35 steps to her flat every day.

“She would do that purposely more than once a day so she could keep her strength up. She was fiercely independent.

“She has a deep faith. It’s very important to her and it has carried her through everything including bringing up two babies at the in mines where temperatures could reach 45 degrees and without air-conditioning.

“Her first daughter, Pamela died in 2009. Her faith supported her. It was a very powerful generation of people that came out of the Depression and World War II.

“She is a fierce Labor supporter because she believes in social justice.

“She has Irish and Scottish background but has a deep love of Australia.

“Up until she was 97 or 98 she would be off by train to attend Australia Day celebrations in the city.”

Mrs Boxsell celebrated her 100th birthday with many of her 12 grandchildren and 15- grandchildren.

“She has a great love of family and and a deep relationship with her great-grandchildren,” Mrs McIlwain said.

“Not many people can say they have a close relationship with their great-grandchildren. They call her G-Nan, short for Great-Nan.”