TRIBUTE: Josie devotes life to Kumbia

Josie McConville (left) enjoyed the community of the South Burnett Birds of a Feather cancer support group with fellow members Ira Bellam and Lesley Gogerly. 229699_05 Picture: Jessica McGrath

Josephine Agnes McConville

30 November, 1927 – 19 May, 2021

Aged 93 Years

There are very few people in Kumbia and surrounding districts who would not know who you were referring to if you mentioned the name ‘Josie’ or ‘Aunty Jo’. She had time for everything and everybody, but to fit it all in she moved at breakneck speed.

Bob and Julia McConville could not have imagined the impact their third child, one of eight, would have on the lives of so many people. Josie was born in Toowoomba in 1927, and grew up on a dairy farm on Tim Shea Creek at the foothills of the Bunya Mountains. Like all children in the district in those days she learnt to milk cows and ride horses at a very young age.

Even as a young child, Josie was a great organizer and her siblings remember the games that they played were all played to Josie’s rules. She loved to play jokes on people and even her grandmother did not escape. When Grandma McConville sat on the verandah watching the children play, Josie would go get her horse, race across the paddock at full gallop and throw herself off and pretend to be dead, or at least injured, waiting for the inevitable rescue from an old lady who was probably suffering a heart attack.

Josie began her schooling by correspondence and even wrote a poem about the excitement of the lessons arriving in the mail. Part of the poem is in the Kumbia Catholic Church Centenary book. After a couple of years, a school opened at Glencliffe and Josie and her brother Robbie rode horses nearly 10 kilometres to and from school every day. When one of her family commented on how long it must have taken to get to school she replied, “Not when you can ride as fast as I can.” Her love of speed started at a young age.

As a teenager she rode horses to go to the pictures, dances, picnics, swimming in Barkers Creek and tennis parties. In her mid-teens she left home and worked helping farmers wives provide the huge home cooked meals required by the itinerant workers moving around the district doing the peanut threshing. The threshers moved from farm to farm and there, Josie found her love of cooking which lasted right up to her last days at home.

After the end of the peanut season Josie worked at the Kumbia Hotel for a number of years. She also helped mothers out when new babies arrived and became a loved member of many families. In true Josie style she was at a cousin’s place in Wynnum helping out with the arrival of a new baby, when she found a pair of handcuffs her Cousin Joe who was a policeman, had left on the top of a cupboard. Josie picked them up and clipped one onto her wrist, not satisfied, she clipped them on her other wrist. Joe arrived home and said he would have to escort her to the police station where the keys were. Josie was mortified to think she would be escorted through town as a criminal. Joe relented in the face of her tears and said he would bring the keys to the house to release her and so ended her life of crime.

Josie’s longest lasting job was at the Kumbia Café. When the café changed hands, Josie went with the business. She remained friends with these families for the rest of her life.

During the 1960’s Josie bought a removal house and had it moved to a spare allotment next to the Kumbia Post Office. Her mother and her youngest brother, Kevin, lived there with her. The Bains lived next door and Josie became friendly with the family. Mr Bain owned the butcher shop and when he became ill and had his leg amputated, Josie became his carer. Josie formed a close friendship with his son Keith and when Keith became ill with cancer Josie cared for him until his death. Keith left Josie some of his estate and so began the next big part of her life.

From that time, Josie devoted many years as a community volunteer, raising funds for the Cancer Council with Biggest Morning Teas and Relay for Life and working tirelessly with Birds of a Feather – a support group for cancer sufferers, survivors and carers which Josie co-founded. She helped organise Deb Balls and sold hundreds of Raffle tickets with the funds raised bringing in thousands of dollars for Cancer Research. She embraced her Irish Heritage and helped organise many St Patrick’s Day balls and garden parties with funds going towards charities such as Catholic Missions and other groups chosen by the local Catholic Community. She ran morning teas for disabled people in Kingaroy and for newcomers to the town of Kumbia and helped out after Mass meals at the Kumbia Church. She supported the ecumenical movement by helping the four Christian Churches in Kumbia share a prayer service every 5th Sunday. For years she and her mate Pat Hobdell catered for weddings and other functions and she was well known for her stalls at the Markets. Her cakes and slices were always in great demand. Everyone was welcome to partake of that wonderful cooking. She did everything she could to be inclusive and to build community.

Josie was the recipient of many awards for her community work. Paul de Jersey presented her with an award for excellence in recognition of Service to the Queensland Cancer Fund.

In 2000 she received the Shire of Kingaroy Citizen Award for the Kumbia District

In 2010 she was presented with an Australia Day Certificate of Achievement after being nominated for the South Burnett Citizen of the Year Award.

In 2013 she was nominated for Australian of the Year Awards

This year, 2021, she was presented with the Local Achiever award for the Kumbia District.

The Citation from when she was given this final award earlier this year acknowledges Josie as a member of many community groups including the Kumbia Race Club, the Kumbia Hall Committee, the Kumbia and District Historical Society and the Our Lady of Peace Catholic Community. She continued to play tennis for many years and loved tenpin bowling. In fact, not much happened in Kumbia without Josie being involved. She had keys to almost every building in Kumbia and as ‘The Keeper of the Keys’ she was sometimes also known as the ‘Mayor of Kumbia’. She was a very community minded person not just for organisations but for many individuals. She loved people and made everyone feel as if they were her best friend. She was always interested in the achievements of others, she was there to celebrate, to listen and to encourage everyone to be the best they could be. Josie will be greatly missed by her family and her community.

Friends and family celebrated Josie’s life at a Requiem Mass held at Kingaroy St Mary’s Catholic Church on Sunday 19 May.

Josie was a loving daughter to Robert and Julia McConville, cherished sister to Angela, Pat, Robbie, Gabrielle, John, Bernard and Kevin. She was a beloved sister-in-law, aunt, great-aunt and great-great-aunt to her family and dear friend to all who knew her.

READ ABOUT the recent 2021 Biggest Morning Tea held in Josie’s honour here: