September 25th, 2021 is a very special day for Connect client, Bill Leis. He turns 100 years old!
Connect employee, Regan gave Bill a call this week to congratulate him, and have a chat about his life over the last century.
Bill was born in Tenterfield, NSW, a regional town just below the Queensland border. He was one of nine children, the third born, and the only boy. His father was a railway worker, and his mother had her hands very full with the nine children to raise.
Bill recalls some wonderful memories of growing up in Tenterfield; “My grandmother owned land and kept horses. Every Sunday I’d be out in the paddocks horse jumping over logs with my cousins. Half the time I’d finish up in the blackberry bushes covered in prickles, but it was great fun.”
When Bill was seven, his family moved to Dubbo, where he went to school and, at 15, met his future wife, Heather. I ask him if he knew she was the one when they met. “No, no, we were just kids.” I ask about their courtship and how he proposed. “Oh I don’t remember, I certainly didn’t go down on one knee or anything like that!” Bill agrees he’s not a romantic. “But she was a champion woman.”
Bill joined the army when he was 20, then left in 1945 to move to Sydney with Heather. He worked as a plumber; “It was a hard job in those days, with the heavy metal pipes …these days they have it much easier as everything’s plastic.”
The couple had a son in 1952, Brian, who now lives in Bathurst with his family. Brian had a son, Tom, and a daughter, Alex, who went on to bless Bill with three great grandchildren between them, all boys. Bill speaks proudly of his family “I’m glad Tom had a boy, as he’s the only way my name will keep going.”
Heather was sadly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her early 70’s. “I nursed her at home for eight years. It was a hard time, she didn’t even know who I was at the end.” But Bill says the silver lining was that it forced him to learn to cook. “I’m the best cook going. I can cook anything; casseroles, cakes… I believe that if you can read, you can cook.”
I ask Bill if his home cooked meals might be the secret to his longevity. “I dunno, I think it’s the luck of the draw really. I mean I never smoked, and wasn’t a big drinker.” Both Bill’s parents died in their late 60s, and all but one of his siblings have now passed away. “I never thought I’d get to this age!” Bill chuckles.
Bill is coping well with lockdown; “Everything’s sweet with me. Nothing gets me down.” He has some lovely neighbours who call in regularly and do his shopping for him. “Even people just walking past call out and ask me if I need anything or want a coffee. Sometimes I don’t even know who they are, but they know me!” I point out that he is obviously very popular around Leichhardt.
Unfortunately, the party Brian had planned for Bill’s birthday down at the pub had to be cancelled, but Bill is looking forward to celebrating once restrictions ease. “I want a haircut that bad it’s unreal! Hopefully I’ll get one before my birthday!”
At the end of our chat, I ask Bill if he has any advice for the next generation. His advice is simple enough; “Be kind to each other, and look after each other.”
Sounds like great advice to me!
Thanks Bill, and a very Happy Birthday from us all at Connect.
Hitting a century is no mean feat!