You might not pick member Helen Johnson as a sporting great, but in her day she was a top netball player playing for the Victorian State team, the Australian Universities Team and later for the Canadian Team, and that was when her height was only 5ft 6in.

Today’s players are a foot taller. “But 60 years ago people thought a girl of 5ft 6in was tall,” she says.

She was also into high-jumping in the era before Western rolls and Fosberry Flops; she just did scissors jump into a sandpit – no soft landings then into a big airbag.
What else? Long jumps, swimming (backstroke) and sprinting. TV coverage – nah, TV hadn’t reached Australia then.
And before we forget – and this is not sporty stuff – their son Michael is an orthopedic surgeon at the Melbourne Children’s Hospital, which we learnt only 30 minutes after learning that the son Jim of another new member, Rosemary Kiellerup, is another Melbourne orthopedic surgeon – how spooky is that?
Picture: Centre is Louis XIV, standard poodle named after his mentor. His pets are on each side.
Helen  graduated from Melbourne University and taught at Brighton High School and MacRobertson Girls’ High School.  (Are all Bearbrass members teachers?  Apparently so.)
In 1966 newly-wed Bruce took an offer for higher degree study in Canada, taking Helen in his wake. He did his Master’s in education administration at the University of Alberta and went on to do a PhD. They also produced two baby boys and expected to come back to Australia in five years but stayed 18 years with the kids evolving into Year 11 and 12s. “We didn’t come home after five years because we had nothing to offer work-wise except some degree certificates,” Helen says. “But Bruce had good career offers with Canadian education.” 
When they did come home in 1983, one son (Andrew) shed his Canadian accent straight away but other son Michael still has a slight Canadian twang after 37 years in Australia. While Michael chose surgery, Andrew chose literature and now lectures in Academic Writing at Monash University. After a PhD in Literature he wanted to teach in that area but there weren’t many job vacancies in his specialty, such as paid Poet Laureate positions.
Helen always had a yen for architecture but didn’t think she had the maths for it. Nonetheless she gave it a shot in Canada, completing her qualifications on return to Australia.  She graduated from Melbourne University in architecture and put up her own shingle to design anything from Council toilets to home renovations and town-houses. It was not easy at the start but the flow of referrals slowly improved, until she retired in 2010.
Helen is nothing if not versatile. Originally she studied piano at the Melbourne Conservatory and took “History of Opera” as an arts subject – without ever having seen an opera, and only hearing a few opera snippets on radio. She seems as a graduate teacher to have been teaching high jump one minute and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata the next.
She’s always been mad about travel. They deliberately took a slow boat (P&O’s Chusan) from Australia to Canada for the four-week trip, and then for holidays criss-crossed North America from the Rockies to Mexico. 
After their 18 years in Canada they opted for a five month leisurely trip home to Melbourne via Eastern Canada, North Easter USA, UK, Europe and Middle East and Greece in their station wagon, a friends old Campervan and planes plus a few days in a sailing yacht in Greece.  Accommodations varied from tents and Campervan to a 5 star hotel (one night!). 
Helen and Bruce have been married 56 years, achieving “emerald” status at 55. Next up is their 60th diamond wedding Anniversary in 2024.  Helen says the formula for staying married to the same person is to stay flexible and prepared to change with each of the inevitable stages of marriage, past “the first blush of excitement.” Well said, Helen!
Pic: Johnstons sans mutt. The dominance of Helen is because her arms are not long enough for a proper selfie.