INSEPARABLE: Jess Westerman, celebrating her 103rd birthday in March, holds therapy dog Peaches, her
INSEPARABLE: Jess Westerman, celebrating her 103rd birthday in March, holds therapy dog Peaches, her "angel dog”. Picasa

103 birthday candles for Jess Westerman

WWI had barely begun when Marjorie "Jess" Westerman made her first appearance in Brisbane on March 3, 1915, the fifth of six children.

Her three oldest siblings were brothers Jim, Rob and Ben.

She had an older sister Molly and her younger sister Betty was born 18 days after the death of their father, David.

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Jess's niece says, after David's death, mother Marjorie fought hard to keep her family together in very difficult circumstances.

"According to family lore, she was a highly principled woman who was determined that her children should all receive an education so that they could get secure jobs," she said.

"Although subject to a fairly disciplined upbringing,the family were always tremendously loyal to and respectful of 'mother'."

Jess went to technical college in Brisbane for commercial training, which included shorthand and typing, and elementary economics.

After finishing her studies, she worked for many years, including during the war, as a bookkeeper.

During the 1950s, Jess held joint ownership of a grocery store in Taringa.

"This was a time of long and arduous working hours,but her application to the task was typical of her independent spirit and determination," her niece says.

"In the 1960s Jess saw the expansion of development at the Gold Coast as an opportunity for change, and she gained employment as a bookkeeper for a Surfers Paradise real estate firm.

"She was also very pleased to have built the first house she owned, on one of the new blocks released at Main Beach. In the 1980s, she and her sister Molly moved to Southport.

"Throughout their lives, 'Moll-n-Jess', as they were known to their extended family, were devoted to the Presbyterian Church and the Uniting Church," their niece says.

"Both had a long involvement in St Paul's Presbyterian Church in Brisbane, and were similarly involved in the community at Southport Uniting Church, working for many years after retirement in the Blue Care clothing store.

"When, due to increasing frailty, Molly was admitted to the Blue Care Nursing Home in Labrador, Jess spent many hours visiting and comforting her and many of the other residents.

"After Molly's death, Jess, then in her late-80s, continued to visit residents at the home, and also formalised her work as a counsellor and mentor at Southport Uniting Church, where she attended as one of the team available to talk to people in need."

Jess has lived at Blue Care Labrador Gardens since 2012.

She never married, but was an important figure in the lives of her 10 nephews and nieces, all of whom enjoyed her hospitality over the years at Main Beach and Southport.

"Her quick wit and sense of humour, her fighting spirit and her deep integrity continue to impress us and give us great joy," her niece says.

Jess Westerman celebrated her 103rd birthday on March 3.