Why Jean's 98th surprise party was worth waiting for

Long-serving Ipswich bowler Jean Bell celebrates her 98th birthday with friends and fellow members at Ipswich Bowls Club.
Long-serving Ipswich bowler Jean Bell celebrates her 98th birthday with friends and fellow members at Ipswich Bowls Club. Rob Williams

IT was a surprise party and what an exceptional person to receive it.

But even the special guest had to be kept on the greens a while today until the big moment arrived.

Long-serving Ipswich Bowls Club member Jean Bell received a memorable 98th birthday celebration at the Queens Park venue.

A luncheon was planned with friends arriving to surprise Jean after her regular morning match.

However, when the game finished earlier than expected, a quick change of plans was required.

Club official and long-time friend Clarice Willis was delighted with the final result as 80 people turned up to share Jean's belated December 3 birthday.

"It went really well,'' Clarice said.

"She didn't know.

"We finished bowls early for some reason because the green was pretty slow. We were finished by about 11 and we had to stay out there until everybody arrived.

"Her daughter (club secretary Debbie) had to keep her busy in the ladies room but it was all worth it.''

Officials at the historic Ipswich club organised the get-together after a request by the Cunningham District Bowls Association to recognise Jean's 45 year contribution to the sport.

Club members and friends from other clubs like United and Swifts were invited to share today's occasion.

Jean received a meritorious award and cut her cake.

"Many bowlers in Ipswich will have either played with, or against Jean over this time span,'' said Clarice, who has known Jean for 48 years.

"Jean still competes competitively and plays bowls up to three or four times a week.''

This morning's game highlighted how active Jean is as she nears her 100 year milestone.

Although much slower on the greens these days, Jean still plays in carnivals. She's preparing for one at Lowood in March.

Clarice said it was only six years ago that former pennants player Jean finally reduced her even bigger bowls schedule.

"She was a great bowler,'' Clarice said.

After starting lawn bowls with Swifts at Booval in 1972, she joined Ipswich in 1988.

Jean has also served on many committees in roles including president, games director, games selector, committee member and vice patron over those 45 consecutive years.

The Ipswich Bowls Club was established in 1910 and Jean was a central part of the centenary celebrations in 2010.