Jim Stapleton celebrates 107th birthday

By Ivy Jensen

JIM Stapleton may have forgotten how to tie a tie or where he put his reading glasses, but his long-term memory is sharp as a tack.

Which, at age of 107, is hard to believe.

Tomorrow is his birthday, born on June 17 in 1913, which means he has lived through both world wars, the Spanish flu, Great Depression, Vietnam War, the first man on the moon, the fall of the Soviet Union, the internet revolution and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 was worse – killing between 20-50 million people – coronavirus hit closer to home.

“The Spanish flu didn’t stray through the community like this one has done,” he said.

“I’ve never seen anything like coronavirus before. There’s never been a worldwide thing to the extent of this one.

“The Chinese are getting blamed for letting it loose and not controlling it, but maybe they didn’t know what it was.”

Jim Stapleton with his mate Bruiser.

Echuca's oldest resident also remembers the polio outbreaks from the 1930s.

“I was very much concerned when polio came here. I was stationed near Wodonga and we had a team of police trainees from Sydney camped on the bridge and every car going into NSW wasn’t allowed to have kids on board and people had kids hidden under the rugs and in luggage boots. That went on for months,” he said.

Amazingly, he has one memory of World War I.

“All I remember as a kid of five or six is that they put a train together with some six-inch field guns and a lot of other war equipment and the men were returning in patches and there was a bloke who got off the train and one of his arms was missing and they gave him a medal and he put it down on the footpath and he stepped on it,” he said.

“The returned soldiers were pretty badly treated.”

Jim was lucky to escape having to serve in the Second World War.

Working as a senior dairy supervisor for the Agriculture Department and president of the Victorian Dairy Supervisors Association, Jim wasn’t able to enlist because “we were producing food to feed the nation and the army”.

“We were feeding 17 million people at one time,” he said.

“Instead they gave me the job of president Bunyip War Agricultural Committee so I became a part-time soldier.”

Playing senior football between the ages of 15-39, golf until he was 100 and bowls which he was only forced to stop due to COVID-19 restrictions, the veteran credits his longevity to being active.

“I just loved being fit,” he said.

“I worked mostly outside, compared to working in an office and I was always an athlete.”

Nowadays, he keeps fit with his walking stick.

“I reckon I’ve got a pretty good diet and I get Meals on Wheels two days a week,” he said.

“I’ve got a good doctor and a good carer. I read the papers and listen to the news and I think I’ve got an interest in what goes on. I’m not just sitting here waiting to die.”

Although he is a great-grandfather, his mind is still sharp as ever – only losing his car licence last year.

“My brain isn’t ready to give up,” he said.

Not that he thinks about his age – or his mortality - anymore.

“I’ve got no say in how long I’m going to be here, so I’ve just got to take it as it comes,” he said.

The patriarch will celebrate his latest milestone with a lunch at Moama RSL Club.


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Father Time meets the future

Gentleman Jim is turning 106 today