NINE DECADES: Jack Byron is turning 90 next week, one of three remaining in his family of 12 children.
NINE DECADES: Jack Byron is turning 90 next week, one of three remaining in his family of 12 children. Laura Mckee

Volunteering in Gladstone keeps Jack, 89, young

FROM living through the depression, fighting horrendous fires in Victoria during the 1940s to dedicating his time to volunteer at Gladstone, Jack Byron isn't showing any signs of slowing down.

The 89-year-old Tannum Sands resident sat down with The Observer yesterday to share his story.

This year he's notching up 30 years volunteering.

And it's his involvement with groups like Friends of Bindaree and Meals on Wheels that Mr Byron has kept his lease of life.

"Up until joining Bindaree I never pushed myself out into the community. I am a different person since I started," he said.

"I have lots of friends and it's changed my attitude towards life. It's good when the young girls and kids come up to me and have a chat."

Jack was born in 1925 in north-east Victoria, the eighth of 12 children, and growing up in the 1920s was tough, he said.

"I was four when the depression started. No one had any money.

"We lived on a farm and everyone had to work to support the family. I milked cows and went to school on and off.

"We did anything for a dollar."

The Tannum Sands resident sheared sheep around Victoria in his teenage years, voluntarily fighting fires on the side. "Victoria was burnt out when I was a boy.

"We were given a fire truck to put out the fires. There were no rules so we just taught ourselves," he said.

"At 18 I started driving the fire trucks. I remember one day we lost two lives, plenty of houses and 500 sheep and cattle."

He met the love of his life in 1942.

"(Lois) was the poorest girl in the district," he said.

"(But) she was the best dancer I'd ever seen. In 1948 we got married and were married for 44 years and 11 days."

The couple had four children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

They moved to Gladstone in 1955 as Jack wanted a break from shearing.

He worked as a gardener at Gladstone primary schools and Boyne Smelters Limited, retiring when he was 64.

Lois died three years ago of cancer.

Jack turns 90 next week, but he's not the type of person looking for any spotlight.

"I hope they don't have a party for me," he laughed.



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