When Cheryl Kuipers was 21, she set off on an adventure, travelling from the small town of Launceston to the big city of Sydney to do a one-year nursing course.

More than half a century later, Cheryl still hasn’t left. 

Cheryl, the 219th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, ended up building a wonderful life for herself in Sydney.

Before leaving Tasmania, Cheryl had gone on a cruise, during which she’d met a man who, coincidentally, lived in Sydney. They’d kept in touch and he’d even travelled to Launceston to visit her. The two of them have now been married for nearly 50 years.

From her first days as a nurse, Cheryl delivered babies, looked after critically ill patients and performed other vital tasks. At the time, she took it all in her stride, but now, with the wisdom of her years, she’s astonished that a young lady should’ve been entrusted with so much responsibility.

Cheryl enjoyed nursing, partly because she liked helping people and partly because it gave her the flexibility she needed to raise three children. Eventually, though, she had to retire, due to a bad back that she injured from repeatedly lifting patients. Despite working for years in severe pain, she never cancelled a single shift because of her back.

One of Cheryl’s friends recently called her ‘formidable’, which describes her well. Another thing that struck me about Cheryl is her resilience and positive attitude. She doesn’t complain: she just gets stuff done.

Cheryl enjoys a very busy retirement, which includes a mix of travelling, socialising, spending time with family and attending board meetings of the family business (a removalist company that was founded by her husband, and is now led by one of her daughters).

As Cheryl joked, she’s so busy, she wonders if she shouldn’t return to full-time work so she can have more spare time.