Shirl sings along from loneliness to happiness
SHE'S a lady with a big voice, a big laugh, a big hat collection, and an even bigger heart.
Shirley Llewellyn's main aim in life is to make other people smile, which she does predominantly through her singing.
As well as entertaining at nursing homes, she helped establish and run Nambucca Heads Telecross - a service providing a phone call a day to check on older people's wellbeing - establish the local Country Music Club and worked on community radio.
The Bateau Bay resident was recently presented the Lions Club of Lambton New Lambton's highest honour of the Melvin Jones Fellowship for service to the community, in what she said was one of the proudest moments of her life.
"Everything I do is for the community," she said.
"So many people are sad these days when you look around, and if I can make someone happy, make one person smile, how good is that? - I don't think there's anything I'd rather do."
At 82, Shirl has just released her second CD, Among My Souvenirs, and is about to start a new venture with a free community singalong at The Greens Bowling Club at The Entrance.
It will run every second Tuesday of the month starting February 12.
It's not a completely new concept for her, with Shirl running a similar event at what was then the Bay Sports Club for a couple of years, before lack of a venue and illness forced her to halt a group that had grown from six to 64.
This time she has friend Carol alongside, as well as her trusty guitar which she only started learning 12 months ago.
"It's my best friend," Shirl said.
"When I'm feeling a big lonely at home, I start strumming along and singing and it brings me back to the reality that life's not so bad after all."
That loneliness is due to the loss of her husband of 53 years some 10 years ago, having cared for him with motor neurone disease for 21 years.
But singing, she said, was his gift to her.
"He took my hand and said 'I give you back your life; follow your dream'," Shirl said.
"I've always loved singing and it's been my salvation."
Her new CD, like the singalong, features a range of songs, old and new, including I Fall to Pieces and Doris Day's If I Give My Heart to You.
"I never thought in my life I'd have a CD, but when you love what you do and you do what you love, you can do anything," Shirl said.
And she promises a whole lot of fun at the singalongs, with everything from songs from the war years to The Beatles, her all-time favourite Jim Reeves, to Doris Day, Abba and rock 'n' roll ... a new hat for every song, and dancing very definitely on the cards.
"It's not only having a singalong, they meet a whole lot of new friends, and it's something to look forward to, to get out of the house and just feel better," Shirl said.
In the meantime, Shirl is heading to the Tamworth Country Music Festival next month, where she and a friend busked for the first time last year earning $80 in just an hour.
Shirl's free community singalong is at Greens Bowling Club, the Entrance, on the second Tuesday of the month, starting 10.30am-12.30pm on February 12.
For details, phone Shirl on 0243328813.