THEY often say that all good things come in small packages.
Val may have been small in stature, but the many friends and family who knew her realised very quickly that there was so much more to Val Nelson.
She was more like a rare gem, that became well respected and held in the highest esteem.
Many of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) personnel in the Bombala Shire recall Val as being an amazing communications person.
She would man the radios whether she was at home, in the fire control centre or remote locations when she was out and about.
More often than not her home would automatically become a base station.
She would be doing the cooking, washing or other domestic chores when a call would come over the radio from one of the members, she would walk over to the radio and become that amazing voice on the other end.
For us as fire fighters you would turn out to a call, which can be stressful enough, not always knowing what you were going to face, but as soon as you picked up that radio and discovered she was on the other end you instantly relaxed, knowing she would already be organising some backup for you and have other resources on the way.
She would follow us through until we got home safely no matter what time of the day.
Now this was not just a 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday thing.
It was 24 hours, seven days a week.
That friendly voice at the end of the line also spent a lot of time with Reggie out and about in the shire getting to know each and every one of us.
So the voices she spoke to at the end of that radio were people she had got to know.
The visits to various brigades very often included a bit of a get together, some food and those famous homemade yo-yo biscuits.
Her weekly shopping expedition often became not just a shopping day.
If you happened to be at the fire control centre she would ensure you had a cuppa and something to eat.
While Reggie had his meetings and other work related activities, Val was quietly working away in the background ensuring everything else was under control, people were fed and watered and the radios and phones were maned.
It was often at these times, when you got to chat with Val that she would speak fondly about her times when the family lived around the Langwarrin/Frankston area, and the similar involvement she had with radio operations with Country Fire Authority, and the family’s move to the Bendoc/Bombala Shire areas.
She would also chat about her many family and friends and the excitement of someone coming to stay for few days.
At these times you realised that she had her finger on the pulse when it came to not only her children, but her grandchildren as well.
She knew what each of them was up to and spoke of them with much love and care.
She was very proud of all of their achievements in life and spent many hours reading them stories.
To Val, her family were her treasures and this included three sons, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, and some of us that become “sort of adopted” by her and Reggie.
Though she didn’t always share good health she never let that stop her in her day-to-day life.
Val always made time for family and friends.
She welcomed you with open arms, never forgot those important days like birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries, there was always a card arriving in the mail to let you know she was thinking about you.
She listened to our troubles, said a prayer for many of us and gave a helping hand to those people in the community who were doing it tough.
This was done quietly with no expectation of anything in return.
Val’s creed in life was JOY, which meant Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last.
Val will always remain a very important part of our history, especially the RFS and the local CFA.
Any of us who have had the privilege of knowing Val and being a part of her life would understand when I say she’s been an inspiration.
I believe if we could all take a leaf out of Val’s book of life, and if we can manage to be even half the person she was, then our lives would be much richer for the experience.
She will be greatly missed.