JIM Stapleton basically defies all the numbers. The life expectancy of an Australian man born, like Jim, in 1913 was just 59.2 years. For a male born in Australia this year that figure has crept up to more than 80.
Jim’s formula for longevity, as he has told the Riv through the years, is always living in the moment, never thinking too far into the future.
Which might not be quite right as Jim does have to plan in advance for his weekly appearance with the City of Echuca’s division five bowls team where in the season just finished one of his teammates – Jacob Brighton – was 96 years his junior.
It was a chronological juxtaposition that got this lovable veteran back in the headlines across Victoria – from metropolitan TV to the Riv. At the time he said his diminutive little friend was filling his head with stories about life in the 21st century and the digital world.
You are never too old, it would seem, to learn new things.
Australians who were alive before World War I began, and two years before Gallipoli, are not just thin on the ground today, they can probably be counted on one hand.
Jim not only lived through one world war, he was caught up in the second one, went from a world of horse and cart to seeing a man walk on the moon.
So yes, for Jim to make it to his 106th birthday (which he said was never on the cards) means he has lived through the most tumultuous times in all history.
The Great Depression, Vietnam War, the influenza epidemic that killed more people than the artillery and machineguns of war, the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of China, Jim went through it all.
He’s been around so long he just missed Federation.
“These birthdays never interested me because I never thought that far ahead. I just looked after the present. I always had a lot of things to do to keep busy and I’m still a bit that way.
“I was always a sportsman,” he said. “I won the championship at Linton Primary School at the age of 11 and I played senior football between the ages of 15 and 39.
“I was a full forward for three teams. I could kick straight, not all that far but always straight. I am horrified at players nowadays who can’t kick straight.
“I enjoy being fit. It gives me a reason for getting out of bed.”
And he reiterated those longevity tips: “Exercise and keep fit and take life as it comes”.