When Margaret Zannes retired from nursing in 2015, ultimately at Haddington Nursing Home, she left behind a lasting legacy of working tirelessly to improve the health of the community.
It was thanks to her inspiration and encouragement that a large chunk of the community lost a large chunk of weight, collectively a tonne.
“That was just one of so many projects that have affected the quality of life and the life expectancy of so many,” weight loss participant and friend Geoff Hovey said.
Well before the BreastScreen bus was a regular visitor to Tenterfield, she leveraged her contacts in the medical profession and Glen Innes pharmacist John Tregurtha (then-Rotary Club president) to offer country women access to a service that their city counterparts enjoyed. Some compact x-ray equipment was loaded into a bus and taken on a rural community circuit after Margaret corralled Geoff, Tenterfield’s Rotary president at the time, into a fundraising drive.
“This still only scratches the surface of the achievements of this humble, hard-working, visionary health professional,” Geoff said.
The cross-town track allowing walkers and cyclists to exercise and negotiate the whole length of town safely is largely the result of her efforts and negotiating prowess, with Geoff suggesting it could perhaps be called the ‘Margaret Zannes Walking Track’ in her honour.
Tenterfield Willow Walkers was the brain child of Margaret and Dr Dick Keating, her fellow cohort in community health issues, starting as a stroll around Shirley Park.
“When we could do about six laps of the oval we felt ready to go further afield, and so began the journey of the Willow Walkers,” member Norma Ovenden said.
“Over the following 18 years, Margaret and Dr Keatinge were the inspiration that has kept us going as we walked three days a weeks and celebrated our 18th birthday just a few weeks after her passing.”
No annual trade fair or show was complete without her stand offering hearing tests, measuring Body Mass Indices, pricking fingers for blood sugar levels to help diagnose diabetes, checking eyesight or any other of the many projects she undertook, Geoff said.
Always with a caring nature, Margaret was a nursing assistant before training at Glen Innes Hospital, going on to become an enrolled nurse educator in the mid-to-late 70s. She trained to become a diabetic educator and was also involved in child immunisation, including visiting local schools.
She extended her training to audiometry, doing hearing tests at the hospital.
Meanwhile she won an area quality award for her Trim, Taut and Terrific program, taking her to the state finals. Margaret’s model has since been adopted by many communities around the state.
During her many years as a nursing sister at Tenterfield Hospital she excelled at patient education, using a large map of body systems to explain processes. Towards the end of her career she championed a gentle exercise program for older residents and post-stroke and cardiac surgery patients, following on from Trim, Taut and Terrific. She was also a driving force for Seniors Week activities, along with Christine Sommerlad.
Outside of work she was also a force to be reckoned with, as one Glen Innes bank manager was to discover when Margaret attempted to open a bank account without her husband’s formal permission, much frowned upon in the day.
“She left with a fully-functioning bank account, and left behind a much-enlightened bank manager,” Geoff said.
Her children were also on the receiving end of her sometimes-unorthodox health education lessons. On catching Michael sneaking a cigarette Margaret – a non-smoker – bought a packet of cigarettes and suggested they sit down together to smoke them all. John declined.
“She touched so many lives in so many ways it is impossible to measure the value this wonderful visionary woman has added to this local community,” Geoff said.