Joy Beer

One of the stories from the 2013 project: Who were they? People who shaped Victor Harbor and for whom our parks and reserves are named.

Joy Beer Park is located in Nicolas Baudin Drive, between Bartel Boulevard and Tabernacle Road, Encounter Bay, South Australia.

Joy was born on the 6 February 1921 in Adelaide, the first of four children for Hedley Stuart Vawser and Marjory (nee Nevin).

While attending Edwardstown Primary School for Grades 1, 2 and 3 Joy lived with her grandparents in Adelaide. Her grandfather was actually the Headmaster of Edwardstown school. Perhaps the love of teaching had already been passed on to Joy. She completed her primary education at Goodwood Primary School and then went on to Adelaide High School, Adelaide Teachers College and finally Adelaide University.

Joy travelled to many country areas, including Lameroo Area School and Minlaton in her early teaching days. She then transferred to the Flinders Street Demonstration School as she wanted to be a Physical Education Teacher. To achieve this she studied part-time at the university at night while running the Physical Education Department for South Australian schools.

While lecturing and teaching at the South Australian Teachers College, Joy met Rex Rowe, a returned serviceman then studying at the college. A great friendship developed and they were engaged and then married in 1948. Before marriage Joy unfortunately had to resign her position with the Education Department (as was the requirement of that time), so once again she returned to study at university. Soon afterwards Rex was offered a teaching position which he accepted and they moved to Bordertown where Joy helped with pre-school children.

In 1955, Rex was transferred to the Victor Harbor High School. After they had settled in both Rex and Joy became involved in community clubs and events of the district, the South Coast Choral and Arts Society, the church and the library. She became a member of the Victor Harbor Golf Club, and was the Ladies Club Captain for 1958–1961. Years later, she was elected the Ladies President for 1970–1971. Joy’s membership extended over 30 years.

The Education Department asked Rex to return to study for his Bachelor of Arts degree at university, which he did successfully. Unfortunately during this time he suffered a stroke and his health declined. Rex did return to teach at Victor Harbor, but he had another stroke and died in January 1962.

Once again Joy returned to teaching and became involved with the live school broadcasts run by the ABC. She then moved on to the Correspondence School and School of the Air, which took her to many country areas including Port Augusta, Broken Hill, Ceduna and Alice Springs. During her travels she met and married John Beer, a Bank Manager for the Bank of Adelaide, based in Port Lincoln. In 1968, a short while after being married, John and Joy planned an overseas voyage on the Ellinis. John suddenly became ill during the voyage and soon after their arrival in London, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. They flew back home and sadly, John died within three weeks.

Joy entered into Local Government and was a Councillor for the Encounter Bay Ward of the Encounter Bay District Council from 1969. She constantly devoted her energies to the community, and was the only woman councillor for 11 years. During this time, in October 1975, the Encounter Bay District Council amalgamated with the Victor Harbor Council, and the new District Council of Victor Harbor moved into new premises. In 1976 she became the first woman Mayor of Victor Harbor, a position she held for four years. In February 1972, Joy was accepted as a Justice of the Peace, and served the community with loyalty and commitment for more than 36 years. She was honoured to receive Life Membership of the Southern Group of Justices.

For all her wonderful efforts and her commitment, Joy was awarded a Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 for Services to the Community. Her interest in the community covered various groups and organisations.

  • President of the Auxiliary of the Ross Robertson Memorial Care Centre
  • Foundation Member, Zonta International local club
  • Foundation Member, Encounter Bay Ladies Probus Club
  • Secretary Auxiliary of South Coast District Hospital; founder of Petticoat Lane fund-raiser
  • Organised Carols by the Sea for 20 years
  • Member of the South Coast Choral and Arts Society for 60 years
  • Member, Chairperson, and Chairperson of the Program Committee, University of the Third Age South Coast

The church always played an important role in Joy’s life since early childhood in New Zealand. She was very involved with Hotham Uniting Church at Pt Elliot where she served as Chairperson of the Congregation.

A great achiever, Joy Beer, died aged 91 years, on Thursday 15 March 2012. This image hangs in the Victor Harbor Library.