Elaine Brennan, known to many as Mrs B of the Co-op, died on Sunday July 14 at her home in Fairmont Drive, Wauchope. She was 90 years old.
She was born Elaine Eunice Wellard on 21st November 1928 at Murrumburrah, the first child of police constable Archibald Wellard and Peggy. A younger sister Patricia completed the family .
Her early life was spent on the south coast at various towns where her father was stationed. During World War II whilst on the beach at Pambula she saw a plane crash into the sea. She raced home to tell her father, and the plane was identified as an American plane with 3 crew. Thanks to Elaine the bodies were recovered and the incident made national news.
When she was 14 years old, Elaine's mother secured her a position as a trainee sales person in the shop of Mrs McPherson. This shop still exists and is an icon of Pambula, as was the lady herself. Mrs McPherson was a hard task master, and through her Elaine learnt a love of business, an eye for fashion, and the importance of customer service.
At 18 years of age at a local country dance Elaine met and fell in love with a handsome young man, Noel Brennan, who had returned from serving in World War II in the RAF. When Noel asked for her hand in marriage, her father decided Elaine was too young and had not had enough life experiences to be married, so it was agreed Elaine would work in Sydney for a year, and if they still wanted to marry, they could do so.
So began a year of learning for Elaine. She became 'companion' to Mrs McCathy, the wife of a wealthy businessman and lived in the luxurious home 'The Hermitage' . She went to all manner of places that a country girl could only dream of, but at the end of the year she still wanted to marry Noel, and so on June 26 1948 they were married at 7 o'clock in the morning at Our Lady Star of the Sea, Watsons Bay.
They returned to Eden, where Noel was working at a saw mill. Their first child, Annette, was born exactly one year later.
After a few months Noel decided there was very little future in the sawmill for him. Noel applied for a trainee teacher's scholarship, and on acceptance, Elaine and Annette went to live with Elaine's parents at Mungindi, where her father was now stationed.
Noel began teachers college at Armidale in 1950, and in May 1952 Michael was born at Mungindi. On graduation, nine years were spent at Coombell, a hamlet near Casino. Elaine taught sewing to the senior girls, and Noel was the teacher-in-charge. Elaine was a keen tennis player, and when she began playing golf, a sport she loved, she introduced and shared that love with Michael.
Times were tough but Elaine made all the family's clothes on the treadle sewing machine, grew her own vegies, was a great cook, and a loving mum. These were the days of telegrams and phone calls from public phone booths; long train trips to anywhere, letters to loved ones, and honest family values.
Elaine's parents had moved to Kingscliff, and in the Christmas holidays Elaine would work at Morleys department store in Tweed Heads. Her training with Mrs McPherson ensured she was an excellent shop assistant.
In 1962 the family moved to Woolomin, where Elaine continued her golfing and sewing instruction, and in 1964, the family moved to Rawdon Island. A relieving job came up at the Hastings Co-op Store, and Elaine began working there. She loved being back in the work force, particularly in fashion.
The job became permanent, and so began a long association with the fashion business and the Hastings Co-op. Elaine went on to become manager and buyer for the ladies and haberdashery departments. She was very successful because she bought for a particular person. She never forgot the importance of the customer. Tales still circulate of frenzied customers ripping open cardboard boxes to reveal new garments not even priced, and demanding to purchase them immediately.
Following the death of Noel's father in 1975, Elaine and Noel moved to Tumbarumba to care for Noel's mother. Elaine took over the running of the family gift store, The Gift Emporium, but she missed the fashion industry, so she began her own fashion store "Tumba Togs". She was very successful, and built strong contacts with fashion labels in both Sydney and Melbourne. Ladies travelled from Tumut, Wagga and even Canberra to be dressed by Mrs B, and she loved her frequent buying trips for the latest fashions.
Elaine and Noel travelled extensively, visiting Great Britain, Europe and Asia on three extended trips, and travelled to various parts of Australia. Michael moved to Tumbarumba and for a short time worked in the gift shop, extending the ownership to three generations of Brennans, but he returned to Wauchope.
Elaine sold her business in 1990 and tried to retire. She had a large garden, started "Pink Ladies" at the Tumbarumba hospital, and was on the board of the Tumbarumba Golf Club. She was instrumental in many promotions by the Tumbarumba Chamber of Commerce.
In 1992, the Hastings Co-op bought the Parkers building in Wauchope, and Elaine was asked to set up the store and manage the business. As Annette and Michael were both living in Wauchope, Elaine and Noel sold the remaining business and home and returned to Wauchope.
Elaine had a vision for the store, and part of that vision remains today. Her knowledge of fashion and customer demands ensured the success of the Store. When Elaine retired in 1994 the Hastings Co-op Family Store was the place to shop.
Elaine then took up art, something she had always longed to do. She became a member of the Hastings Fine Arts Association, and was treasurer for many years. She continued to paint till the onset of dementia caused her to lose interest, but her paintings adorn many houses all over our country, and even overseas.
Noel died in 2007, and after that Michael was Elaine's housemate. At first Elaine cared for Michael, but the last 6 years saw the positions reversed. The last 3 years also saw the assistance rendered to Elaine by Bundaleer Care Services. Elaine always looked forward to seeing the girls when they came, and enjoyed time with Deb while Michael played golf. The family is very grateful for their care.
Last year Elaine celebrated her 90th birthday with some of her workmates from the old Hastings Co-op store, but her health continued to decline and on July 14 she suffered a heart attack and died quickly and painlessly. Michael was with her. Following a private service Elaine's ashes were taken to Tumbarumba to be placed with her beloved Noel at the Tumbarumba cemetery.
She is survived by daughter Annette McCudden, son Michael Brennan, grandchildren Lisa, Rebecca, Patricia, Sara and Joshua and great grandchildren Estella, Jack, Conner and Indiana. She is remembered lovingly as Little Nanny and Mum.
She leaves many legacies, not least being the delight she would have given many ordinary country women, who were dressed by Elaine in a carefully chosen outfit, bought just for them for a special occasion.
She said "I get a great sense of satisfaction seeing these women look more beautiful than ever they imagined they could be, because I have dressed them to look beautiful, and beautiful they are".