For Bolton Clarke Moreton Shores resident Russell (known as Rusty), turning 100 was an unexpected surprise.
“I’m very fortunate to be the age I am,” he says.
“I truly thought I would never get past my 60s, and I got a surprise for the next three decades – the farther you get, the better you get at estimating.”
Rusty, who celebrated his 100th birthday on 17 September, was born in Coonamble, NSW in 1918.
He joined the AIF during World War II and was in the first convoy to leave Australia for the Middle East, serving as a signaller in the 2nd and 4th Battalions and seeing action in Libya, Greece and Crete.
“I was privileged to be at the victory the AIF had at Tobruk, in Libya, and I hung my hat on the flagpole, signalling the victory,” he says.
It was during the War he met his “wonderful wife”, Barbara, who was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.
“She influenced me to join the RAAF because I was made unfit for further frontline service in the AIF, so I went to Canada and trained as a navigator.”
As a young man Rusty played rugby league and cricket, but injuries to his feet meant he was largely restricted to indoor exercise after the war.
He’s still a keen follower of rugby league, and particularly the Brisbane Broncos.
“I followed the Broncos from the time I lived in NSW, because of how they were establishing the club in a different way and because of Bennett, who was the great saviour of the Broncos.”
After leaving active service, Rusty managed department stores before training as a horticulturist and opening his own business in Sydney.
He has five children, 14 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren, and celebrated with his family and community with a party at Moreton Shores.
And the secret to turning 100?
“I don’t know how you get to 100 – I think it’s in the genes,” he says.
“I didn’t have a sheltered life. The Great Depression was a great learner in the 1930s, when you were hungry.
“I’m happy to have got this far, I’m very happy with the way I’m treated here at Moreton Shores residential community, and with the family support I have.”
Rusty is the newest member of Bolton Clarke’s Centenarian Club. Next week, as part of International Day of Older Persons celebrations, club members will come together for a celebratory morning tea at Brisbane City Hall to honour their lives and ongoing contribution to our communities.
Listen to Rusty’s story in his own words here.