Bowler 100 not out and still rolling along

The Southland Times - - Sport - Richard Knowler

At 100 years of age lawn bowler Ron Rad­ford isn’t short of wis­dom on a va­ri­ety of sub­jects.

Now a life mem­ber of the Cash­mere Bowl­ing Club he be­gan play­ing the sport 40 years ago, en­joy­ing the op­por­tu­nity to min­gle with friends and op­po­nents on the greens and, when things went re­ally well, to col­lect meat packs as re­ward for his suc­cesses.

‘‘There was a bloke chas­ing me down to join the bowl­ing club and I told him I would join it when I was re­tired,’’ Rad­ford re­calls. ‘‘Later I started work­ing at the club, that’s why they made me a life mem­ber; do­ing earth­works, and top dress­ing the greens.’’

Rad­ford can still fire down a black orb, too. With the as­sis­tance of a ‘‘lifter’’ stick, that helps keep his aim steady and true, he has re­tained the knack. When Cash­mere held its club open­ing day last month, Rad­ford was there to im­press with his ac­cu­racy.

This is a man ac­cus­tomed to over­com­ing the odds.

Born in Christchurch in the fi­nal year of World War I in 1918 and raised on his par­ent’s farm in the Okuti Val­ley on Banks Penin­sula, Rad­ford en­dured the hard­ships of the Great De­pres­sion in the 1930s, and served as a wire­less op­er­a­tor and air gun­ner with the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the Pa­cific in World War II.

He sur­vived his share of nasty scrapes dur­ing the con­flict, in­clud­ing crash land­ings at When­u­a­pai air­field, a take-off which al­most re­sulted in the plane div­ing nose-div­ing to earth, and be­ing shelled by the Ja­panese while in camp in the trop­ics.

It was dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion that he learned to re­spect the value of tough graft.

‘‘We got through that one but it was hard. We had to work very hard, no doubt about it. Any­way, it didn’t do us any harm. We have lived long lives, a lot of us.’’

In 1993 Rad­ford as­tounded doc­tors by quickly re­cov­er­ing from a se­ri­ous bout of dou­ble pneu­mo­nia. The doc­tors ex­pressed con­cerns he may not make a full re­cov­ery, but within a week of be­ing hos­pi­talised he was back home.

Upon his re­turn from the war, Rad­ford elected to go farm­ing with his late wife Edna. They had four chil­dren. Later the fam­ily moved to Christchurch, co­in­cid­ing with Ron’s ca­reer change to en­gi­neer­ing.

Rad­ford cel­e­brated his 100th birth­day in June, hav­ing moved into the Essie Sum­mers retirement vil­lage in Christchurch ear­lier this year. His longevity can be at­trib­uted to, among other things, his Chris­tian faith, and a healthy up­bring­ing.

Clear­ing gorse and scrub as a young­ster on his par­ent’s prop­erty was tough, but there was no shirk­ing that re­spon­si­bil­ity. You got on with it.

‘‘There was no ma­chin­ery back then, I used to hate that job. I wasn’t very big but I did it. You had to make your own fun back then, and a lot of it was a very en­joy­able life in a hard way.

‘‘I have al­ways be­lieved in ex­er­cise, you can’t sit around and not do any­thing. Keep your blood cir­cu­lat­ing, keep mov­ing.’’

Nowa­days he isn’t fussed with hav­ing to use the in­ter­net. Drink­ing al­co­hol never held great ap­peal, ei­ther.

Hav­ing sam­pled it dur­ing his teenage years he opted to make a life­style choice: ‘‘I saw no fu­ture in that, so I gave that away. I didn’t mind a quiet drink, but that was about as far as it went.’’

Ron Rad­ford, 100, is still ca­pa­ble of hav­ing a roll up at the Cash­mere Bowl­ing Club in Christchurch.

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