News & Events

Bessie brings Braeside’s backyard to life

February 18, 2016

Testimonial Two

Vale Bessie Gould
Bessie died in late 2017

Bessie Gould thought the old chook shed at the back of the Braeside Park village had a lot of potential. The chooks had died off one by one and she put dibs on the shed before any other plans could be made. These days it stores her gardening equipment and compost and offers a focal point for the many residents, who stop to yarn about gardening or life in general, or receive a handful of fresh vegetables.

Bessie, 87, is the resident fruit and vegetable grower, using land that was vacant at the back of the village and turning it into a thriving garden that many of the residents enjoy. It’s a win win situation. Bessie gets to do something she loves and residents get to taste the fresh produce. And the kitchen, where meals are produced for people in the assisted living units, get some of the garden fresh tomatoes in the summer.

It’s been almost a decade since Bessie moved into Braeside Park, determined to establish herself somewhere that could cater for her various needs as she ages. She had not heard of the place but her son-in-law’s mother was at Leith Park at St Helena and told Bessie about Braeside Park, much nearer to where she lived.

Moving into Braeside Park was not a problem to Victorian-born Bessie, who has moved 18 times in her life around three states of Australia. The moves also gave Bessie, a trained nursing aid, the chance to try new careers. She has tried her hand at farming, running a Ned Kelly tourist attraction and even buying a nursery.

In 2003 – two years after she had a triple bypass, Bessie, whose husband Herman died in 1991, bought a motorhome and travelled alone for a year with her Jack Russell dog, Dash. The pair covered a lot of territory, travelling as far north as the Gulf country in Western Australia.

“I loved travelling and I didn’t mind being along. It was great fun meeting people. I would go gold panning and fossicking and at the end of the day in the campsites we would have happy hour and show of any gemstones,” she said.

Bessie hasn’t lost her interest in, and love of, life. At Braeside Park she goes to the weekly (?) bingo and takes a regular turn as the bingo caller. She is part of a knitting group that meets weekly making things for families that are experiencing difficulties. The group has a lot of fun and laughs and is adamant that “what’s said at knitting stays at knitting”! Each Friday she heads to the Berwick Senior Citizens Club for line-dancing if her knees are up to the task.

Bessie has always loved gardening and when the chooks died she seized the opportunity to grow a few tomatoes. Over the years the garden has extended to cover an array of vegetables as well as apple and kiwi fruits. Bessie also has a vegetable garden at the back of her unit.

“I spend a lot of time in the garden, but I just love it. I am like a farm hand; I get up early and make the most of the day. I love living here, it is a wonderful place,” she said.

“When I used to travel around the country I would see retirement places that looked very flash with swimming pools and all sorts of things. But this is the best place to be.”


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