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Vale Norma Bean, PSA life
PSA life member Norma Bean died on 16 May aged 90 years.
Her daughter, Anne McKinnon, wrote the following tribute described
Norma’s life and pharmacy career.
Mum’s life was an adventure she
embraced – the highs and the not so
highs – a rich, long life.
Norma was born in 1924 at Beech Forest
Bush Nursing Hospital near Apollo
Bay, into a pioneering, farming family.
She was raised on a green dairy farm in
Victoria’s Otway Ranges, with the roar of
the Southern Ocean coming through her
Norma started school at Apollo Bay at
four, going along with her older sister
Hazel, who was one of the teachers.
As mum had no problem keeping up
with the lessons, the headmaster said
she could stay.
After matriculating as dux of Colac High
School, Norma headed off to Melbourne,
to become a teacher. However, a weak
heart meant that she failed the medical
exam they had to have back then.
So pharmacy was Norma’s serendipitous
choice. At 16, while World War 2 was
raging, she began her pharmacy
When the first year exam results were
posted, all the students, mostly male,
were craning at the notice board to find
their results. One of them called out,
‘ Who’s N. Fricke?’ Norma, the blonde up
the back, called out, ‘I am.’
The fellow, who couldn’t believe his ears
or eyes, said ‘Well, you’re top.’
In her final year, when Len Herath,
her future husband, came home
on leave from his Army posting in
Indonesia, Norma had one exam to go in
her finals. Norma had a wonderful time
with Len, but failed the final exam.
Once qualified, Norma embarked on her
own pharmacy adventure, opening her
own pharmacy at only 21 years of age.
It was Apollo Bay’s first pharmacy.
Norma, in her pharmacy, was one of many
tourist attractions on the Great Ocean
Road. Once, an American lady came into
the pharmacy and seeing Norma, asked to
see the chemist. Norma replied, ‘I am the
chemist.’ The American lady was amazed
that a woman was the pharmacist –
she promptly went out to her tour bus and
brought in some of her fellow travellers to
meet the ‘lady chemist.’
With no doctor in Apollo Bay, Norma
began her medical service to the
community. Fisherman regularly came
in the get fish hooks removed; one was a
very intricate extraction from an eyelid.
When the war ended Len returned from
Indonesia to marry Norma. They had
to decide whether to stay at Apollo
Bay or move to Len’s family’s fruit
block at Merbein, near Mildura, in the
Merbein won. Norma continued her
pharmacy work, doing regular relieving
for many Sunraysia chemists. My sister
Elsa and I began to realise our mother
was a little different to the other farmers’
wives; she had a profession. We were
very proud of mum going to work,
looking important in her white uniform.
In the early 1960s Norma and Len
chose an adventure together in retail
pharmacy. Eventually they purchased a
pharmacy in East Oakleigh, a developing
suburb with many Greek and Italian
Elsa and I loved coming home from
primary school and chatting to mum
and dad in the dispensary. We loved the
rostered Sundays when just our family
worked together in the pharmacy.
There was a sense of useful, happy
purpose at Herath’s Pharmacy.
Pharmacy in the 1960s and 1970s
was Norma with her spatulas making
luscious creams – especially her famous
Salamanca Sunburn Relief Cream –
and counting tablets in the strange magic
counters. Also, the huge prescription
book – done by hand – you could actually
read the chemist’s writing.
There were bottles of pink ‘medicine’
stored under the counter ready for when
the doctors scrawled PLACEBO.
I remember the evening Christmas buying
trips to DHA and Sigma when the whole
family went along and Elsa and I were
fussed over by the sales staff, as we ooh’d
and ahh’d at the gift selections displayed
on glass shelves.
Norma helped many people with aches
and pains and minor illnesses with
her thorough advice. Once a young
Italian mother came into the pharmacy,
with her ill baby. Norma asked the
mother, ‘What are you feeding your
baby?’ The mother replied ‘the spaghett’
(spaghetti). Mum found a solution.
Sadly, Dad died in 1969. Norma continued
running the pharmacy for five more years,
with wonderful support from her loyal
staff. In 1974 she sold the pharmacy and
moved to East Malvern.
Norma continued her pharmacy work,
relieving for local chemists. In 2007,
she was thrilled to made a Life Member of
the Pharmaceutical Society.
Two years of happy marriage to Leon
Bean were full of travels and family
fun. Sadly, Leon died suddenly in 1983.
Fully retired in her 70s, Mum relished city
and country life.
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