Meet The Locals: Doreen Leeman Celebrating A Great Surf Coast Mum
Healthy, resilient, friendly communities are made by wonderful, selfless people whose energy, experience, and time create the kind of society we are lucky enough to enjoy here on the Surf Coast in Anglesea.
People like Doreen Leeman, (or Mum, Nan, Nannie, Auntie Doreen, Dors and Doza as she is also known in Anglesea) is humble, but known as a living treasure for her tireless commitment to her family and charity work. In 1991, her huge contribution was recognised when she received the honour of being named Citizen of the Year for the Surf Coast. Over the years she has raised money for so many charities, from the Breast Cancer Foundation to the Asthma Foundation, Parkinson’s Disease Research and Lions. And even at the age of 80, and during the current lockdown, she’s busy baking cakes and making cards to sell for charity.
I’m proud to say Doreen is my Aunt and Godmother. As she is in isolation at the Anglesea Lions Village, we chatted on the phone about her extraordinary life and her unwavering commitment to the Anglesea community.
Aunty Dor I’ve been wondering how you’re coping in isolation because you’re always such a busy person, how are you getting through it?
I’ve been spring cleaning, cooking, making cards and putting the music on and dancing around the house! We’re lucky in the village, as there are only 20 units and we are looking after each other. A few residents at a time will meet out on the lawn for a friendly but socially distant chat. We’re lucky to live in Anglesea, as there is such a good community spirit, but I’m devastated for the shops that have had to close and miss not being able to give my grandchildren and great grandchildren a hug.
You were born in Ballarat. How did you come to live in Anglesea?
My Mum and Dad brought a block of land here from my grandfather, and they built a two-bedroom shack in 1949. So, I started coming to Anglesea for holidays at the age of 13. I moved down here in 1968 with my late husband, Ron and our four children, when Mum and Dad retired here. It was a lovely place to raise a family. Ron and I took over the Golden Fleece Service Station. It was a big learning curve as I also had to run the restaurant! It was very seasonal work then, and Ron would go off doing building work over the winter. I went on to become the caterer at the Anglesea Golf Club and also the manageress at Anglesea Bakery for many years. I’ve seen big change over so many decades, watching so many houses popping up and shops opening.
Many Anglesea locals would be familiar with your amazing gift for baking delicious slices, cakes and biscuits that you’ve sold for many years during fundraisers for the Lion’s Club. How did you get into cooking and baking?
My grandfather was a pastry cook, and all the children worked in the bakehouse in Ballarat, as soon as we could see over the counter! I love making cakes. Going into the kitchen is my happy place, and it’s a joy to bake for charity. I’ve been a member of the Lioness Club for over 40 years now. In December, the kids from Camp Quality come down. We bake up big for that, and we feed the kids for the whole weekend. We also sell cakes and bakes at markets, so that we can buy fruit for children at local schools.
You’ve done a lot of volunteering for the community – tell us about some of your highlights?
I did Christian Education for kids in prep, grade one and two. They’d come in, and we’d have a cuddle huddle! It was a light of my life being with the littlies. After our daughter Sue tragically died suddenly of an asthma attack, Ron and I were devoted to making money for the Asthma Foundation for ten years. We’d hold barbecues, sausage sizzles and silent auctions, all kinds of events. Our motto was even if we save one person, it is worth it.
Just researching the market?
Many of our Anglesea residents would know you from the days when you and Uncle Ron would train debutantes at the Anglesea Debutante Ball to raise money for the Uniting Church. How did you get involved?
Ron and I were both ballroom dancers and we originally met at a dance in Ballarat when I was sixteen. My girlfriend Vicky and I used to go together, and I was pretty keen on Ron. After one dance, Ron’s best friend asked us if we wanted a ride home in his ute. I pushed Vicky in first, so I could sit on Ron’s knee! That was the start of our very happy marriage. We loved dancing, so when we were asked to train the debutantes after Mrs Croft, we were delighted to be involved. Ron and I ran it as a fundraiser for the Uniting Church for years, we threw fantastic big balls. Everyone would get dressed up beautifully and dance. It was just lovely.
Uncle Ron was also a very community-minded man.
Yes, he was a wonderful community person. He was in the Lions and a volunteer ambulance driver for 35 years. He also used to take the old ladies out once a month in a 12-seater bus. They’d have lunch and wine and ice-cream on the way home!
I’m sure the people of Anglesea would love to know where you get your energy from?
Being busy keeps me going! I’m a very family orientated person. I have four children, 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren! I was still babysitting my great-grandchildren until the virus started. I’m very lucky really to have such a loving extended family. I also take a lot of joy in being a part of the Anglesea community. And if this virus has taught us anything, it is that time is precious, make the most of your day, support each other and we’re all in it together.
A special Mother’s Day thank you from me, for all the hours we have shared in the kitchen with you and mum teaching me to bake. I’m sure some of my clients would share in the big thank you after receiving many of these baked treats.
I look forward to sharing some of these recipes in the future.