VET­ER­ANS’ SPE­CIAL MILE­STONE

Units mark 30 years of mem­o­ries

Daily Mercury - - PEOPLE - LUCY MAR­TIN lucy.mar­tin@dai­ly­mer­cury.com.au

JAN New­ton, Wal­lace ‘Wally’ Blair and Marie Friend hap­pily sit around a ta­ble chat­ting about their spe­cial com­mu­nity.

It’s easy to see why the trio has lived at their Creal Street units for so long – it’s about friend­ship.

Mrs New­ton, Mr Blair and Mrs Friend are long-time res­i­dents of Bolton Clarke Bi­cen­ten­nial, for­merly Mackay’s RSL Care Bi­cen­ten­nial re­tire­ment com­mu­nity.

The units were of­fi­cially opened 30 years ago to­mor­row – No­vem­ber 11, 1988 – as spe­cial hous­ing for war vet­er­ans or their wi­d­ows.

Only one orig­i­nal res­i­dent re­mains – Alex Baird, 96, has been there since the com­plex opened.

The small com­mu­nity of 31 units was built with the sup­port of do­na­tions.

“One mil­lion dol­lars was raised by the peo­ple of Mackay and sur­round­ing dis­trict, Legacy and the RSL,” Mrs New­ton said.

Her hus­band Eric served with the Aus­tralian Army dur­ing World War II, in New Guinea, where Mr Blair was also posted with the Aus­tralian Navy.

Mrs Friend’s hus­band, Robert, also served with the Navy, in both World War II and the Korean War.

Mr Blair, 93, was born in Mackay and en­listed as a teenager. “I was 17 years and seven months when I en­tered and 20 years and seven months when I left,” he said. Mr Blair found him­self in New Guinea shov­el­ling mud in­stead of sail­ing the seas. He was given a Bren gun and seven mag­a­zines and the or­der to guard the men car­ry­ing ra­dio equip­ment.

He laughed at the idea of a skinny 17-year-old look­ing af­ter big­ger, stronger men.

It’s this con­nec­tion to the armed ser­vices which bonds the trio as well as other res­i­dents in the com­plex.

Mr Blair said they un­der­stood each other. Some res­i­dents might not talk about what they went through but they all know what it was like and sup­ported each other.

Mrs Friend and Mrs New­ton formed a deep friend­ship af­ter their hus­bands died.

All three can re­mem­ber the mo­ment they learnt World War II was over.

“I was on leave and I heard some­one next door yelling it’s over,” Mr Blair said.

Mrs Friend said she had been with her cousin and heard the news on the ra­dio. It wasn’t long be­fore the pi­ano was loaded onto the back of the truck and there was mu­sic play­ing through the town.

Mrs New­ton said her fam­ily had also cel­e­brated with mu­sic.

“I think my mother played for two days straight,” she said.

‘‘ ONE MIL­LION DOL­LARS WAS RAISED BY THE PEO­PLE OF MACKAY AND SUR­ROUND­ING DIS­TRICT, LEGACY AND THE RSL

JAN NEW­TON

Photo: Rachelle Baze­ley

FRIENDS: Long-time res­i­dents of Bolton Clarke Bi­cen­ten­nial in Creal Street, East Mackay, are (back from left) Marie Friend and Jane New­ton and (seated from left) Alex Baird and Wally Blair.

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