A lifetime of achievement
Joan Guymer has been remembered as a significant contributor to the Shepparton community for many years across the health, arts and education sectors, as well as for being a loving wife, mother and grandmother.
Among her many legacies are the establishment of a University of the Third Age in Shepparton; the promotion of adult education; the founding of the Shepparton Performing Arts Association and the subsequent Australian National Piano Award; the founding of Shepparton’s branch of the Soroptimist International professional women’s organisation; and as an 11-year member of Goulburn Valley Health’s Board of Management.
Mrs Guymer died peacefully on August 15 at Harmony Village Nursing Home, aged 90.
Shepparton’s Dr John Guymer said his mother set an example of hard work and achievement for her two children.
‘‘Although very busy, she was a loving wife for my father George and loving mother for Robyn and me. Both Joan and George did university courses as we were growing up and they definitely set the example of studying hard to achieve,’’ Dr Guymer said.
Dr Guymer is a longstanding Shepparton GP, while his sister Robyn Guymer is a Professor of Surgery (Ophthalmology) at Melbourne University.
Mrs Guymer was born in Euroa, a daughter for farmer John ‘‘Jack’’ and Flora Moore.
Mrs Guymer was educated at Euroa Primary School before boarding for three years at Clarendon Ladies College in Ballarat.
She went on to gain a Bachelor of Education at Deakin University and trained at Melbourne Teachers College from 1950-52.
Her teaching career started at Numurkah High School and later at Shepparton Girls High School from 1961.
While there, Mrs Guymer set up a pilot scheme for teaching instrumental music which spread throughout the region. She also trained junior and senior choirs to enter competitions at state level.
In 1957, she married Commonwealth Bank teller George Guymer after the couple met while boarding with the Cox family in Numurkah.
Together they bought the milk bar in Dunkirk Ave and, along with Mrs Guymer’s father and Mr Guymer’s mother, they lived and worked in the milk bar while Mrs Guymer taught at Shepparton Girls High School, which later became Wanganui Park Secondary College.
Daughter Robyn said her mother was a trailblazer for women.
‘‘Joan became deputy principal in 1976 then acting principal from 1981-82 of Shepparton High School when few females held that role. She then went on to be a senior education officer in charge of 37 schools in the southern area of the Shepparton district,’’ she said.
From 1983, Mrs Guymer was principal at Nathalia High School and a senior education officer involved in participation and equity programs.
In 1987, Mrs Guymer retired after 37 years in teaching.
A citation from her award of the Order of Australia in 2004 states: ‘‘At a time when senior positions in education were dominated by males, she was prepared to take positions of responsibility.’’
In retirement, Mrs Guymer’s energy and community commitment increased even further.
In 1988, her love of the arts led her to form the Goulburn Valley Community Music Centre which provided a teaching program for musical instruments, singing and dance for young people involving more than 20 community tutors.
The organisation went on to become the Shepparton Performing Arts Association, which in turn led to establishment of the Shepparton Piano Award and later the nationallyrecognised Australian National Piano Award which continues as a biennial award today.
In 1990, she obtained funds to renovate the Mechanics Institute in Wyndham St and to run the inaugural Goulburn Valley Wood Turners Exhibition which has since become a popular annual event.
Mrs Guymer became a Shepparton City councillor from 1992-94, a marriage celebrant from 1998 and a Justice of the Peace from 1999. She also represented the north-east as a member of the Victorian Arts Council board.
In later years, Mrs Guymer continued her passion for singing as conductor of the popular Silver Belles Choir, which regularly performed at nursing homes around the district.
In a letter of recommendation for Mrs Guymer’s 2004 OAM award, former Member for Shepparton Don Kilgour said she had set a great example of personal achievement for women.
‘‘Joan has shown the women of Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley what can be achieved by a woman who is prepared to work with her community,’’ he said.
As well as her two children John and Robyn, Mrs Guymer leaves four grandchildren, including a doctor, teacher, lawyer and psychologist.
After a private burial, a memorial service is planned for Mrs Guymer in November — COVID regulations permitting.