Decorated community worker turns 100

A Brisbane woman who was recognised in the Australia Day Honours List is celebrating another major life achievement.

Bessie Conomos OAM is Queensland’s newest centenarian after turning 100 at the Carinity Wishart Gardens aged care community today.

Bessie Conomos, who turns 100 on April 20, at her home at the Carinity Wishart Gardens aged care community in Brisbane.
Bessie Conomos OAM, who turns 100 on April 20, at her home at the Carinity Wishart Gardens aged care community in Brisbane.

She was born Vasilike Gianniotis on the small island of Kythira in Greece on April 20, 1921, the first and only girl in a family of six siblings.

Migrating with her parents to Australia seven years later ‘Bessie’, as she became known, spent most of her younger life living in rural New South Wales.

While she was living in Tullibigeal west of Parkes, Bessie met and later married Theo Megaloconomos.

“Mum was smitten straight away. Her mum though thought he was too old; it happened a lot in those days. However, my mum won,” Bessie’s daughter Regina Hadgis explains.

“Both my mother’s and my father’s families came from the same island in Greece, but from different villages so the families were known to each other.”

The couple had four children and settled in the small town of Carinda, a two-hour drive east of Bourke, where Theo operated a garage, movie cinema and ice works business and served as a councillor.

“They ended up having a very happy and fulfilling life in Carinda with the various associations they were involved with,” Regina says.

Bessie was actively involved in the community and also in other regional towns such as Walgett and Dubbo, before the Conomos family moved to Mansfield in Brisbane in 1984.

She volunteered for Meals on Wheels and also at the St Nicholas aged care home in Highgate Hill and the Greek Orthodox Church at Mt Gravatt.

Bessie Conomos pictured as a 16-year-old in the late 1930s.
Bessie pictured as a 16-year-old in the late 1930s.

Bessie loved cooking and her talents in the kitchen helped drive her fundraising for numerous charities.

At the age of 87, she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of her service to the Greek community in Brisbane, including through organisations which provide assistance to the elderly.

The award also recognised Bessie’s contributions to the community of Carinda, particularly as an avid member of the local Country Women’s Association and Bush Nursing Association.

“Mum always hoped she inspired young people to become involved in their communities. She loved to cook and was an avid knitter,” Regina says.

Bessie, who moved to Carinity Wishart Gardens in 2016, was inducted into Carinity 100 Club for centenarians.

“She is blessed with having family visit regularly, which always brings her joy,” Regina says.

Relatives from as far away as Sydney, including some of Bessie’s four children, nine grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren, gathered for a birthday party at Carinity Wishart Gardens on Sunday.

Interestingly, the last three inductees into the Carinity 100 Club from Carinity Wishart Gardens – Bessie Comonos (2021), Norman Abbey (2020) and Beryl Carter (2018) – celebrate their birthdays within two days of each other.

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