Former Young resident John French celebrates 100th birthday

Former Young resident John French will celebrate his 100th birthday on February 23.

John was born in 1921, to parents John and Ann French. He was the eldest of five siblings, Cecil, Ken, Edna and Allan. John attended Young Primary School, which at the time was a house which had been converted into a school.

His teacher's name was Dr Kelly, who was a World War I veteran who had been gassed during his service and had ongoing effects on his health. Some days would not show up to teach. As a young boy he helped out on the family farm on Temora Road and even did a little gold mining on a barge in the river.

At the age of 12 he was taken out of school to work building roads with a pick and shovel.

He also worked pulling up stumps with a truck, packing up wool and was training to become a wool classer before he joined the army.

While in the Army John got to travel around Australia, being based at Wagga Wagga, Townsville, Atherton Tablelands and Darwin.

When orders came for deployment, his unit left Townsville and were chased by a Japanese submarine for over a week, however they managed to evade it, causing the journey to be much longer than planned.

John serviced in Borneo and was there when the war ended.

The night before coming home many of the unit mates went out to celebrate. On return to Australia John got a job in Sydney selling Peters ice cream Bondi beach, before getting a promotion to make the ice cream. He also worked at Grace Bros.

It was while he was in Sydney that he took a trip to the Blue Mountains. While he was on the train back that he met a young lady called Beryl Lancaster. They were soon married and moved to Melbourne.

Not long after they had twin sons Michael, and the late Tony (Anthony). John worked as a manager in the government Department of Housing.

It was in this role where he spent weeks of negotiations with unions and the government to get a pay rise for workers in the public service. There was much celebration among all the staff and, seeing everyone so happy, brought him much pleasure and joy. This was one of his greatest work achievements. John and Beryl (deceased) retired to Tweed Heads 24 years ago.

In later years Beryl's health demised and he became her carer until she passed away in 2004.

He is still very independent, residing at home, enjoying daily walks with his dog, Lucy, and going out for coffee and lunches.

John has two grandchildren, Sarah and Matthew and two great-grandchildren, David and Hannah (also twins).

When his granddaughter Sarah was born, he made a statement that he would see her get married.

Three years ago at the age of 97 John had the honour of walking Sarah down the aisle at her wedding. John has received a letter from the Queen as well as nine other state and national leaders.

When asked about what is the secret to a long life John replied "exercise, and being active. I was always active". John has always been active doing things, being heavily involved with the Liberal party, the church and his family.

There is rarely a day when he has nothing to do, he said.

The 100th birthday celebrations will be held on February 23 at a private function room at the Tweed Heads Twin Towns RSL to be attended by family and close friends.