His name may not be widely known, but Gary Ostrofski's happy face and friendly waves to passing traffic are more than familiar to many Bundaberg Region residents.
Gary has become something of a local celebrity with the TriCare aged care resident often seen seated at the front of the Bundaberg facility’s Fe Walker Street address waving and blowing kisses to passing drivers.
And, as he approaches his 80th birthday, Gary said he has no intention of stopping.
“I love people and I love coming out and waving,” Gary laughed. “I love making people happy.
“If I’m sad I always go down there and make them happy and make my day happy too. It works both ways.”
Gary has resided at the aged care facility for the past four years but only began waving at passing commuters about 12 months ago.
“I used to sit down there at any time, having a cigarette,” he said. “I don’t smoke much – only about 10 a day.”
Gary said he has always been popular and his decision to start waving at passing traffic appears to have only further cemented that popularity.
While posing for photos to accompany this story, Gary received numerous waves and horn toots from passing motorists and was in his element waving and blowing kisses to all in return.
He said the best time to interact with commuters was at 3pm when parents travelled past after picking up their children from school, but added he often ventured out to the footpath several times per day.
Gary said members of the community had shown him generosity because of his daily ritual, citing an example when seeking to purchase a pie with peas at Rise The Bakehouse at the Southside Central Shopping Centre (Olsen’s Corner) prior to visiting his doctor.
“I said, ‘How much?’ and they said, ‘It’s on the house!”, he said with delight still in his voice. “I said, ‘Why’s that?’ and they said, ‘Because we always wave to you and you always wave back’.
“People love me. They appreciate me waving to them.”
Born in Esk, Gary has lived in Bundaberg for most of his life over two stints, having moved here as a youngster and worked here in forestry on the Gregory River and picking fruit.
“I picked avocadoes, rock melons, Santa Claus melons – I had a feed of them I can tell you!”, he said.
“And I was as skinny as a reed too. As skinny as a pin.”
He loves Bundaberg and cannot envisage seeing out the rest of his life anywhere else.
“I sort of grew up here, in my younger days,” he said. “I was up here in 1950. Moved away then came back again for good. Returned about 30 years ago. I love the town.
“I (also) used to go fishing with my father (around the Bundaberg Region waters) and catch all the big jewfish in the gullies – when there was water in the gullies. Now you go to the gullies and they’re dry.”
Unlike those gullies, Gary’s popularity with passing motorists will not dry up while he remains able to hand out his friendly waves and kisses.
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