News & Events
99 and not out
May 24, 2018
At 99 Don Simpson boasts a life of good health and much love. Though there was a hiccup in North Africa in 1943 that set him back a bit. In fact it took him almost two years to learn to walk again after he was hit by enemy fire in Alamein during the Western Desert campaign of the Second World War.
Don was 22 when he joined the Army in 1940 and was sent to the Middle East with the 9thDivision. He was the platoon runner, one of the young and fast soldiers who ran communications between the three sections of the platoon commanders. Three years of active service came to an end when he was wounded and sent back to Australia on the Dutch Hospital ship, the Oranje.
By the time you near a century, there are a lot of stories and memories; some too tender to share and others that shouldn’t be forgotten. Don’s wife, Betty, who died three years ago is an important chapter in his long life and memories of her fill him with sadness, but also with laughter when he recalls how the couple got together when they were in their thirties.
Don migrated to Australia with his parents from London when he was three. Their neighbours, the Chivers family, including daughter Betty, migrated to Australia a short time later and moved to Geelong. The two families lost touch until Don’s mother read a death notice decades later for Stan Chivers, Betty’s father. The Simpsons went to visit Betty and her family and the rest is history.
“She saw me and grabbed onto me and wasn’t going to let me go. It was a good match,” Don laughs when recalling his beloved wife. He was able to visit Betty every day of the last two years of her life spent in care at Liscombe House, OCAV’s aged care facility. Liscombe House was one of the main reasons they moved to Leith Park in 2002 and Don hasn’t regretted a day of his life in the village.
“We wanted to move into a place where we knew there was care for us if we needed it. Betty did go to Liscombe House and I could visit her every day and sit and have my lunch with her,” Don said.
Don is still living independently but says the services provided to him make life manageable as he ages. Each morning someone comes to check he is okay and brings his mail and a few hours later a cooked lunch is delivered to his unit from the Leith Park kitchen. Someone comes once a fortnight to clean his unit and each week he gets the Leith Park bus to the shops to buy what he needs.
“It is absolutely wonderful what we have here and it makes my life very good,” he said.
Don and Betty threw themselves into village life from the moment they arrived, participating in all the organised social events and outings. Don still relishes an opportunity to go out and mix with other residents, particularly over a bowls game. He played for decades with the Lower Plenty Senior Citizens and was keen to join the indoor bowls at Leith Park. Each week he and about eight or 10 others gather in the hall for a morning of bowls.
“I just love it. Bowls are fascinating because every single bowl you play is different. And the chance to gather with friends each week is great.”
Every day he opens the village hall for use by residents. Each evening he locks it up. “I just keep on going and all these things help,” he said.
A handyman all his life Don, has refurbished the indoor bowls equipment over the years making score boards, personalised name plates for each player, stills to rest bowls in and three massive barrel trolleys used to roll the mats onto and store when not in use. He has given his building equipment to the maintenance staff at Leith Park as he is no longer able to ‘tinker’.
Don turns 100 on December 22 and thinks it might be a bit ‘cocky’, but is planning his 100thbirthday party just the same. He will celebrate at Leith Park amongst close friends and then travel to Brisbane with his daughter, Catherine, to celebrate the milestone with her family and friends.
He has no great secret to longevity, just a bit of friendly advice. “I suppose I have a sense of humour and that helps. I have always been active and I still walk around the village every day. The main thing is to just get back up again when something goes wrong. That’s about it.”
Pete Zawacki drove to Leith Park twice a week to visit his mother, Helen, until her death a year ago. After she died he wanted to honour her memory and ‘repay’ the kindness staff showed her by volunteering.Read More