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Gawler History Team Inc.

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National Trust of South Australia

In Gawler now



Grace Ashley

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth 1959

Ashley Grace is the youngest of four children, born in 1959 in Clermont, QLD, near Capella, where his father was a policeman. He attended a number of schools in country Queensland as his father was transferred around the State, with his secondary schooling being at St Patrick’s College Mackay. He moved to Brisbane to study Optometry at the Queensland Institute of Technology, graduating in 1979. As work for new graduates was scarce in Queensland at that time, he accepted a position with Marilyn Hatcher Optometrists in Gawler and Tanunda, and began work in June 1980.

Ruth Grace (nee Paterson) was born in 1961 in Bundaberg, the second of three children. Her father was a sugar and dairy farmer in her early childhood, then in 1967 began a 10-year stint as Superintendent of two boys’ homes. Ruth attended a variety of primary schools, and did her secondary schooling at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School in Brisbane. She also went on to study Optometry, and graduated in 1981.

Ruth and Ashley were married in 1981, and have lived in Tanunda ever since then. They have eight children, Peter, Hannah, Rachel, Jonathan, Stephen, Philip, Andrew and Joshua. Amongst other volunteer activities, they have been closely involved with the Barossa Valley Amateur Swimming Club for many years, Ashley in a coaching role, and Ruth as current President.

After Marilyn Hatcher’s tragic and untimely death in 1983, Ashley and Ruth bought her Optometry practice, and continue to practise as A & R Grace Optometrists. Optometry practice in Gawler has changed considerably over the past 33 years. When they first commenced work, Ashley and Ruth saw entire families, reflecting the traditional stability of the Gawler population. People are much more mobile nowadays.

By today’s standards, the equipment in the practice was very basic, with everything done manually, and there was a workshop for making up glasses with an optical mechanic on the premises. Nowadays there is more equipment, it is highly sophisticated, often computerized, faster and more accurate. Glasses are now no longer made on the premises, but are sent to Adelaide to be made and delivered by a fast courier service. The number and variety of spectacle frames for people to choose from has increased exponentially over time.

Whilst there have been numerous changes in the optometry practice over the years, including two changes of location and modernizing the appearance of the practice, some things remain the same. People’s basic needs have not changed. Essentially people want genuine care and high quality service and to deal with people who are sincerely interested in them. This has been the philosophy of the practice, over successive optometrists, since its opening in the 1950s.

Ashley and Ruth have enjoyed serving the people of Gawler, and have appreciated their loyalty, and look forward to many more years of involvement in the community.

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