John (or Jack as he prefers to be known) Williams is remarkable.
On Thursday he celebrated his centenary with his daughter Denise Brown and her husband Gary at a pub in Armidale. Not only does he not look his age, both his physical and mental capabilities belie his 100 years.
Until he had a fall 10 months ago, Jack was still walking into town and back twice a day entirely unaided from his one-bedroom unit where he lives alone - about five blocks.
Now he rides his mobility scooter because the wheelie walker Legacy gave him slows him down too much.
"I've had a hard life but a good life," Jack said. "I was told to get out and work aged 14."
Jack was born in Sydney on May 13, 1921, and grew up in Mascot with his two younger sisters swimming in the Cooks River for hours where the airport now stands.
The family lived in the converted local gun club clubhouse.
"They used to have live pigeon shooting back then," Jack said.
"We used to get the pigeons off the roof of the buildings if they got away and sell them back to them."
A World War II veteran, Jack speaks of the horrific atrocities he saw when he served as a young sergeant in the army in the Pacific region.
"After the war, I used to wake up screaming," he said.
"I couldn't then, but I can talk about it now.
"The Japanese would rape the white women, hundreds of them, and torture them; the lucky ones died. We had to bury them when we found them.
"I used to get very emotional about it.
In those days, people used to do things that you wouldn't think possible.
"But you can't blame the younger generation as that is in the past - they were heathens then."
On his leave trip home in 1942, Jack married his fiancee Judy Hardy, and when he returned after the war, the couple had three children John, Denise, and Vicki. Jack worked as a linesman in electricity, and the family moved around before settling in Armidale in 1954.
In Armidale, Jack coached the reserve grade rugby league football team, was a swimming coach, played and coached A Grade bowls for both Armidale City Bowling Club and the Ex-Services Club, and taught students from most of the schools in Armidale how to play bowls.
"The kids were different then to what they are today; they were very polite and used to help each other," he said.
"I also stood for council once but got beaten by one vote - thank god."
During the past 20 years, Jack lived for a time in Sydney with his half-brother, George, and his wife, Dawn, before returning to Armidale. Up until 2019, he would travel to Sydney by train several times a year to visit them.
Not only does he live independently, and do his own shopping and cleaning, it was only since his fall last year that Jack began to get Meals on Wheels. Before that, he walked down to the pub for a hot meal every day.
"I wouldn't eat my own cooking," he laughed.
Jack said his secret to youth is chasing lovely girls, staying involved in the community, and keeping active.
"I put it down to having a hard life," he said.
" I used to walk everywhere."
And after all these years, Jack said he had learned one important thing.
"Enjoy life while you can and appreciate what you've got and what is around you," he said.
"I appreciate everything that's around me. There are good times and bad times, but you forget the bad times."
On Saturday, Jack will celebrate his milestone birthday with more than 20 family members and friends at a dinner in the Ex-Services Club.
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