Last month, we said goodbye to one of Power Tynan’s original clients, Jean Harslett.
Morwenna Jean Harslett died peacefully on the 22nd May 2015, in her 90th year. Jean’s passing is not only a loss for her family and friends but also for the Granite Belt district.
Jean, as she was known was born in Stanthorpe and grew up on the family orchard at Glen Aplin, with her parents Alexander and Morwenna Gemmell and her younger sister Dorothy. Jean's father had a great interest in insects which he passed on to Jean at an early age. Her mother was very artistic - a talent which found expression in Jean’s keen photographic eye.
Jean attended Glen Aplin School and later completed her education by correspondence. Her comprehensive knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Granite Belt was gained though a natural curiosity and understanding of her surroundings. Entomology was her foremost scientific interest in which she became an authority on buprestids (Jewel beetles) with several species named after her. Much of her life long collection has been donated to the National and State museums.
In 1951, Jean married Bob Harslett and moved to a vegetable farm at Amiens. Alec, Morwenna and Susan were born in the following years. Jean enjoyed sharing her interests with her three children, seven grandchildren and in her final year was delighted by the birth of her first great grandchild. While rearing a family and helping on the family farm, Jean involved herself in many organisations in the Stanthorpe district. Jean was a founding member of the Stanthorpe Field Naturalist Club and Stanthorpe Camera Club. Her interest for her natural surroundings and her belief in the importance of maintaining them for future generations was instrumental in the establishment of Sundown National Park and the extension of the Girraween National Park. With the efforts of Jean and other members, the Stanthorpe Camera Club was able to host two successful international photographic salons.
Both Jean and her late husband Bob were active in encouraging young farmers, being advisors in Rural Youth over a period of 25 years. They were the host family for many foreign exchange students through the organisation: Agricultural International Exchange Association – from the mid-sixties until current times. Rotary was also an organisation where they could support and encourage people and projects both locally and around the world. Their interest in people was also reflected in a lifelong association with Stanthorpe Meals on Wheels. Jean really enjoyed chatting to elderly people while delivering meals.
In her later years, Jean took an enormous interest in the history of the Stanthorpe District. She was co-author of "They Came to a Plateau" and at least six other history booklets of local schools and organisations. Perhaps the countless hours of research at public libraries and gathering information from locals strengthened Jean’s resolve to further develop the Stanthorpe Museum. Today it houses the Jean Harslett Research Room, which is a tribute to the work Jean has done for the museum for the benefit of others who wish to research local history.
Jean has indeed contributed to so many clubs and touched so many people in the Granite Belt, being an authority on all facets of natural history and local history. Her outstanding contributions to the community have been recognised with: an honorary life membership of the Queensland Entomological Society in recognition of contributions to field studies; inclusion in the book "Brilliant Careers of Queensland" for her contribution to Natural Sciences– this book was launched by the Queensland Museum documenting the lives of 50 women and their achievements over 150 years of the development of State ecology; Queensland Naturalist Award in recognition of her contributions to, and observations of the State’s Natural History; Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland in recognition of her contributions to Regional Histories; Lions District Governor Bicentennial Community Service Award; British Empire Medal for services to her community; Rotary Paul Harris Fellow; Rural Youth Silver Plough Award in recognition of 25 years as Advisor to Rural Youth; and a Granite Belt Australian Day Award for civic contributions.
Jean has been actively involved and contributed significantly to many charitable organisations, service and special interest clubs in the Stanthorpe area over her lifetime. All of these passionate pursuits have been on a voluntary basis with unquestionable benefits to her community. Jean has certainly etched her name into the annals of the Stanthorpe district and its people - she will be missed but always remembered. Jean is survived by her three children, Alec, Morwenna and Susan, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.