HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Centenarian Fred Wright   plants a tree to celebrate a long life assisted by Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour and horticulturalist Lynda-Joy Dunlea.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Centenarian Fred Wright plants a tree to celebrate a long life assisted by Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour and horticulturalist Lynda-Joy Dunlea. CONTRIBUTED

STORY OF: The secret to Centenarian Fred Wright's long life

SITTING in his lounge room having a chat about his 100th birthday milestone, Fred Wright was quick to whip out his recently renewed drivers licence.

It was evidence that the Hervey Bay resident and his wife Joan, 98, have no plans of slowing down any time soon.

The two still live in their own home, Fred still drives to the shops and walks their beloved terrier and guard dog Roxey alongside his scooter every day.

Other than some help from their good friends at Feros Care, the two are proud to live independently.

The couple has been married for 77 years and they say there's still plenty more good years to come.

"It's hard to look back and remember all those things from the beginning, it's amazing," Joan said.

"It just goes by so quickly."

 

Hervey Bay's Fred and Joan Wright have been married for 77 years.
Hervey Bay's Fred and Joan Wright have been married for 77 years.

Frederick Harold Wright was born on February 4, 1919, on the Isle of Wight, a small island off England's south coast.

His family was made up of his parents George and Daisy and younger brother Norman.

Fred attended Pading Council School and furthered his study at technical college to become an electrical engineer.

He met his adored wife Joan in 1941 and that's where the real adventure began.

Longing for some excitement outside of the small island, Fred joined the military and served with the British Army during World War II.

Because of his posting the two were fortunate enough to see most of the world.

They travelled through India, Central and East Africa and throughout Europe, including Austria and Russia.

"In Italy I was injured and spent months in hospital recovering from a leg injury," Fred said.

Fred's work installing VHF radio with British Telecom also took them to India, Pakistan and Central and East Africa, with a large portion of the posting being in the midst of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya.

"It was definitely one of the highlights of our life," Fred said.

"It (East Africa) is 8000 feet above sea level and it was very nice but that's where all the Molo Boys were, we were right in the middle of it and we were armed but we never had to use them.

"I think it helped to know the language."

The two then moved to Australia, where Fred started an engineering business.

They never returned to England.

On the Gold Coast, Fred was treasurer in the Liberal-Democrat Party, he was a long-serving Lions International member at the Camp Hill Club and was a Freemason for about 40 years, reaching the 18th Degree at the Red Lodge in Mount Gravatt.

If it wasn't for a bout of shingles at the age of 80, Fred would have kept going.

"The thing about it was I couldn't wear the regalia for the Red Lodge because of the shingles so I had to give it away," Fred said.

"I was very keen on the Freemasonary."

In his younger days, Fred dabbled in football and boxing and was a keen musician, having played the trumpet and violin in an orchestra.

He was also a reluctant but avid ballroom dancer.

"My wife told me to get rid of the instruments and learn to dance so that's what I did," Fred said with a laugh.

"We used to do a bit of ballroom dancing. We never competed, it was just for fun."

In their later years the two fell in love with sailing their 36-foot yacht named Elation. They still love driving down to the Hervey Bay foreshore to watch the yachts go by.

"We did a lot of sailing and we had our own yacht. We sailed very frequently with Royal Queensland," Fred said.

"Hervey Bay is a fabulous place to sail in."

Joan and Fred had two sons, Terry - who lives in Hervey Bay - and their late son Geoffrey who they tragically lost last year at just 68.

While the couple has always been strong, Joan said the loss of their son was undoubtedly the toughest time in their life.

"It was a dreadful blow when we lost our son.

"Everybody loved him and anybody that needed help, he was there.

"He was very clever and very kind."

Despite their terrible loss, both Fred and Joan agree that staying active, having a good sense of humour and keeping a positive outlook on life has been a key ingredient to staying young at heart.

Besides Fred's bout of shingles and the odd cough and cold, the two have always been in good health.

They also still enjoy a drop of gin at night.

But the biggest thing, said Joan, is putting good wholesome home-made meals on the dinner table.

"Joan doesn't like my cooking," Fred said with a laugh.

"We look after one another and I see that he's fed well, that's a big secret," Joan said.

"We like our own cooking. We cook a lot and I make mince pies and that sort of thing. I pay great attention to great home cooked food and that's a good basis of feeding the body properly, and I think that's a big thing for keeping you going.

"There's only one take-away we go for and that's fish and chips, but just occasionally."

That was almost certainly the meal the two enjoyed at Fred's 100th birthday celebrations, surrounded by family and friends at the Hervey Bay RSL on Monday night.

The hearty centenarian was also honoured by council with a tree planting at the Botanic Gardens on Monday.

Of course, a very independent Fred helped dig the hole and moved the tree into place.

Fred is still waiting patiently for his letter from the Queen.



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