NOT many of us will reach three figures, yet alone still be driving by that age.
But long-time Willow Tree resident Cyril Barwick is, remarkably, about to do both.
The fiercely independent character, who turns 100 on December 23, continues to travel around town in his trusty van.
“I’ve had a driver’s licence for 64 years, with no infringements as far as I can remember,” he says.
“The only thing I’ve had is a few police officers pull me over to tell me I’m driving too slow.
“The freedom to drive means everything to me.”
A top-quality tennis player for many years, Cyril also spent countless hours coaching children and taking care of the courts at Willow Tree and Quirindi.
He gave up playing the sport competitively in his late 80s, but maintains a keen interest.
As a returned serviceman who fought in the Middle East and Papua New Guinea during World War II, Cyril knows just how fortunate he is to still be alive.
“I did fully expect to be killed,” he says.
“We faced months of active fire, and I was lucky to escape being hurt.
“When the Kokoda Track [campaign] was being fought, I was in the middle of the Indian Ocean with no defence whatsoever, suffering from sea sickness and more-or-less malaria as we were rushed back to Australia.
“Death didn’t really worry me and, for some reason, I was spared.
“As far as I know, I’m the last survivor around these parts.”
After getting a taste of travelling during the war years, Cyril went on to visit 52 countries in total.
“I actually went to Japan shortly after the war ended to try and see what it was like, and I was expecting it to be fairly hostile,” he says.
“But I found that they couldn’t have been any more friendly, which was strange as just before that we’d been trying to kill each other.
“I think it [travelling] really made me realise how lucky we have been here compared to some other countries.
“And that still applies of course.”
One of the main personality traits that immediately stands out when you meet Cyril is his humility.
He’s resided in the same quaint house for decades, surrounded by the most basic possessions, and claims to have lived a “fairly uneventful” life.
“I just live day-by-day and time has gotten away,” he says.
“My health has been fantastic – I’ve not really followed any food diets or anything so I’ve got no real advice for people there, but I’ve just always been active.”
So, does he have any regrets over the past century?
“Not really, maybe that I didn’t get married,” he says.
“I met an English girl years ago on the North Coast while I was on holidays, but she was keen to head back to Britain and I wanted to stay put.
“We drifted apart from there.”
He takes a second, seemingly to reflect, then his strong independent nature kicks back in.
“I’ve just enjoyed things being free and easy,” he says.
“It’s been a pretty stress-free life most of the time.”
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