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Junction Hill resident George Smith, will celebrate his 100th birthday on March 1 and join his family and friends for an early birthday party at the Grafton District Services Club (GDSC) on February 27. Image: Emma Pritchard

George celebrates 100 years

Emma Pritchard

Sitting outside his Junction Hill residence, proudly holding a photo of himself taken during his days with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), George Smith says the key to a long and happy life is staying away from pubs, not drinking or smoking, and spending plenty of time with loved ones.

And as he prepares to celebrate his 100th birthday on March 1, he will have many friends and family members by his side.

Born in Strathblane in the beautiful Huon Valley region of Tasmania, Mr Smith had a happy childhood growing up on the family farm, spending his days helping his father milk their herd of dairy cows and working in their sawmill, cutting timber boxes to ship Tassie apples to England.

When WWII broke out, an 18-year-old Mr Smith joined the RAAF, his preference over the army, and served as a Fitter 2E working on Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawks.

Crediting the American fighters as good planes and good matches against the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero, Mr Smith’s work with the RAAF saw him posted to different training bases and stations throughout Australia, including Mildura where he met his future wife, Joan Epps, who was working as a nurse.

“We met during a dust storm,” he recalled with a smile.

While seeking shelter from the treacherous weather in the same shop, it wasn’t until a week later at a local dance that their paths crossed again, and they became a couple.

Junction Hill resident George Smith, will celebrate his 100th birthday on March 1 and join his family and friends for an early birthday party at the Grafton District Services Club (GDSC) on February 27. Image: Emma Pritchard

During WWII, Mr Smith was posted to North Borneo and spent two years in the tropics as the Australian forces fought against the Japanese troops. 

After returning to Australia, he and Joan married in Swan Hill on September 11, 1946, and the newlyweds returned to Mr Smith’s home state where they built a house and had four children, Dianne, Andrea, Ross and Peter.

Later in life, the family relocated to Lightning Ridge where Mr Smith dabbled in opal mining before moving to the Clarence Valley 20 years ago.

Following Joan’s passing four years ago, Mr Smith continues to live in Junction Hill and enjoys regular visits from his eldest daughter Dianne who lives in Grafton.

Mr Smith will celebrate an early birthday at the Grafton District Services Club (GDSC) on February 27 with his family and friends who are travelling from Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and Lightning Ridge to attend.

Mr Smith has 10 grandchildren and more great-grandchildren than he can count.

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