A former school principal at Kurnell, Heathcote East and Brighton-Le-Sands public schools has celebrated his 100th birthday.
COVID-19 curtailed the birthday celebrations for long-time Kareela resident Bob George, much to the disappointment of his large, extended family.
But he still managed to enjoy not one, but two parties.
Born on February 12, 1921, Mr George was one of eight children and spent his early childhood on a property near Premer in north-western NSW.
He and his three older brothers would ride bareback four miles to and from school, often sharing a horse amongst two.
"This was after we had got in the cows, milked them, chopped the wood and checked the rabbit traps we'd set the night before," Mr George said.
"It was the same again after school, so we had rather long days."
The family later moved to Gunnedah where Mr George attended Gunnedah Intermediate High School.
He finished school in 1938 having been named dux and went on to attend Armidale Teachers College, where he met the love of his life, Nell.
"It was her red hair that first captivated me," he said.
In 1941, Mr George enlisted in the RAAF and obtained his pilot's qualification.
He trained in the UK and Canada, before flying his Spitfire from Wales to India where he became a reconnaissance pilot in Burma.
He survived a plane crash in Bengal in 1945. At the time, press clippings described the crash as occurring during one of the "worst monsoonal disturbances in 50 years", which left "parts of the plane strewn 600 yards into the jungle".
On his return, he and Nell wed. They were married for 64 years before her death.
Mr George started his teaching career at Gunnedah Public School, later becoming deputy principal, while Mrs George worked at Gunnedah High School from 1945-65.
They moved to Sydney in 1966 and settled in Kareela.
Mr George went on to become principal of Kurnell, Heathcote East and Brighton-Le-Sands public schools.
He retired in 1980, giving him more time to play golf - a game he was introduced to during the war. He played his first game at St Andrews in Scotland, and later became president of Gunnedah Golf Club.
He joined Kareela Golf Club (now Sharks at Kareela) soon after it opened, and was a playing member for 50 years. He landed the first ever hole in one recorded on the course - one of four during his playing days. He gave up playing at 94 and remains a social member of the club.
Mr George said family had been the most important part of his life.
His three children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren had brought him great enjoyment and he remembers each of their birthdays.
"Family is the thing," he said. "It's what life is all about."
Mr George still lives independently in the family home at Kareela, where he enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes.
He follows the rugby league and golf.
Still in excellent health, he also enjoys a glass or two of red wine and has an outstanding memory, something he shares with his younger brothers, Allan, 92, and Eric, 94.
He celebrated his birthday with family at Sealevel Restaurant at Cronulla last Friday, followed by a party at his home two days later with his brothers, who travelled from their homes to attend.
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