By Jess Baker
One of the Granite Belt’s oldest, best loved, and most influential personalities has passed away at 103 years old.
Agnes McKechnie leaves behind a legacy of service, love and that of a life well-lived.
Born in Townsville on 6 December 1917, Agnes was the third eldest of five children and had three sisters and a brother.
Her family grew up in Applethorpe, and Agnes attended Applethorpe State School.
At 15 years old, Agnes met and befriended Jack Boucher, who would become her husband three years later in 1936.
The pair began a life on a farm and small cottage at the back of Applethorpe, and went on to have five children: Nicolette, Suzanne, twins John and Michael, and David.
David said his childhood was spent “half on the farm and half in the dressing room”, as his mother and her friends were always performing skits, plays and pantomimes in the home.
He said Agnes was always a huge supporter of the arts in Stanthorpe and the district, and was extraordinarily hospitable.
“Mum, to the end, was the most gracious and grateful and cheery and cheeky person you could imagine,” David said.
“When people came to visit her, her immediate thought was ‘are you staying for dinner?’, ‘would you like to stay the night?’
“It didn’t matter who you were, you got hit with that straight up.”
Agnes and Jack were known to love entertaining and often hosted tennis afternoons and music-filled evening gatherings.
The Bouchers worked tirelessly tending to and picking fruit from their orchards and would sell their fruit at the markets. They put their first fruit display together at the Stanthorpe Show in 1948.
Both Jack and Agnes were heavily involved with local theatre and took parts in many plays and musical productions.
Their performances were promoted as ‘Gamatonics’ productions, in reference to the Glen Aplin Memorial Association and ‘tonics’.
“The tonic that everybody needed after two world wars,” David said.
“Everybody was just completely worn out.”
Tragically, Jack died in 1969 in a level crossing accident in Stanthorpe.
He was driving into Stanthorpe to prepare for the opening night of a play when his car collided with a train at the Passmore rail crossing. He was killed instantly.
Two of Agnes’ children, John and Michael, took over the orchard and Agnes moved to town.
She kept herself busy and joined a number of community groups, including The Summit CWA.
“She was always there for the community,” David said.
“She was heavily involved in CWA, the church guild, travelled all over the countryside, and then my father died when I was young …
“A few years later she married Henry and that then took her on a much more widespread journey.”
Agnes married Henry McKechnie, who was elected Member for Carnarvon in 1963 and served as Minister for Local Government and Electricity from 1972 to 1974.
“They were just travelling constantly and she just handled that beautifully,” David said.
“She met the Queen. She was an extraordinary partner to Henry and a great asset to him in that field of going from meeting to meeting all over Queensland and Canberra.
“And then Henry had a stroke and she nursed him for I think maybe 10 years, until he passed.
“And that was again just a huge effort that she handled, and (she) continued to handle all of her community service that she was doing and all of the family.”
David said she was a “very special” woman, with an extraordinary sense of humour, and she will be dearly missed.
Agnes is survived by her many loving children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, extended family and friends.