Lucky. What else can you call a bloke who has lived to celebrate his 80th birthday after having survived several serious car crashes and being shipwrecked?
Childers resident Don Grant recently threw a party for family and friends at the Isis Club, his 80th birthday being the last function the club hosted before its enforced closedown.
Don is what experts on character analysis may term “a social animal”. He loves the company of his peers, his Rotary mates and the few blokes he invariably shares a few beers with on a regular basis.
He remains pragmatic about the enforced social isolation forced by this latest threat to humanity – the Coronavirus. “I had a wonderful time with the 25 or so people who helped me celebrate my birthday. We had sole use of the Isis Club so there was plenty of space.
“It was great to catch up with those near and dear to me, and to share a few laughs and to look back over those 80 years,” he said.
Don and his wife Liisa ran a local fruit and vegetable business in the main street of Childers for many years until unexpected illness curtailed Liisa’s involvement in the enterprise.
“That’s life and you just play with the cards you are dealt,” said Don.
He is an absolute cycling tragic having first become hooked on riding a bike when as a knee-high youngster he pestered his sister for a ride of hers.
“I love it. As a young bloke I raced competitively and did manage to win a few trophies. These days I ride for health and fitness reasons. I can easily manage a 20 kilometre ride.”
Come the Tour de France or the Tour Downunder and Don religiously keeps tabs on the results. He has even gone to South Australia a few times to watch the Tour Downunder.
Golf, bowls, fishing, his beloved Broncos and even a dabble on the ponies are sports that have captured Don’s interest.
“I love fishing and crabbing and I can thank years of engaging in that pastime for the many skin cancers I have developed over that time.”
It was his love of fishing that led him to one of the scariest episodes of his life.
Don was just 25-year-old when he went on a fishing expedition with three other men from Biloela. The party set out from Gladstone on Friday May 7, 1965 headed for Masthead Island about 30 miles (50 kilometres) out to sea.
Rough weather caused their boat to break down. A five metre wave smashed into the boat and drove it on to nearby Polmaise Reef where it overturned.
“Two of our companions were initially trapped below deck but we managed to get a hatch open and get them out before another wave assisted our struggles to get the boat upright.
“It had a hole in the hull which we patched to some degree, but we were left high but not dry on the reef. The incident happened about 10am on the Friday and we huddled together on the reef until the tide started rising and we got back in the boat.
“We were looking for food to eat. There were a few potatoes floating around and a tin with a large fruit cake. Closer inspection revealed saltwater had ruined the cake.”
Don said it was only the habit of a pilot of a DC3 on the Brisbane to Gladstone run diverting to allow his Saturday passengers to have a look at Heron Island that resulted in the hapless four being spotted.
“We certainly were not missing at this stage,” he said.
“We waved our shirts and I was very happy to see him waggle the plane’s wings in acknowledgment that he had seen us.”
The group was rescued by a 35ft fishing boat, “Christine”, sent from Heron Island which managed to tow the stricken boat and its shaken crew back to Heron Island. The story featured prominently in the Sunday Mail newspaper.
Despite the ordeal, fishing is still a relaxation that Don enjoys with a couple of his Rotary mates.
“Joining Rotary was one of the best things I ever did. It’s wonderful companionship and to be involved in Rotary projects really is rewarding both personally and for those you are helping.”
Don has participated in Rotary teams engaging in overseas projects undertaking work in PNG and the Solomon Islands.
“The Solbikes project where we repaired and ultimately distributed dozens of donated bikes to the Solomon Islanders was special.”
Don, with his knowledge and love of bikes, spent months repairing the donated bicycles which were shipped in a container to the Solomon’s.
“The friendship and fellowship I get from being a Rotary member is priceless. I don’t even mind that I am often the butt of good-natured ribbing from my fellow Rotarians. We are a special group and I would recommend Rotary to anyone.”
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