Clarence Valley’s oldest man, Whiddon Grafton resident Kenneth Weekes is turning 107 on Monday, 5 October 2020.
Kenneth Loxton Weekes “Ken” was born at “Braylesford” in Dovedale Street, Grafton on 5 October 1913, to parents Darcy Edwin Weekes and Dorothy Forster (nee Loxton).
“Braylesford” was one of a number of properties in the Dovedale area that have passed through the hands of Government Surveyor to Grafton in 1856, W. A. B. Greaves and family. Ken remembers that there was an extensive orchard associated with the house.
At the time of his birth his parents were renting a farming property at Carrs Creek (near Grafton).
Ken was the eldest of five children and is the last of the five still alive. His two brothers and two sisters married and raised their families in the Grafton area before all but one, moved away.
Ken’s sister Marjory married Mervyn Bultitude and they raised their family on a farm at Carrs Creek. One of their daughters, Jennifer Powell, still lives in the area.
Ken went to primary school at Carrs Creek, before attending Grafton High School. On 7 April 2012 Ken was invited as the oldest remaining male pupil to cut the cake at the Grafton High School Centenary celebrations, along with the oldest remaining female pupil, Winifred Jefferies, who recently passed away.
At the start of WWII Ken married Jean McPhee, who was living with her family on a farm at Swan Creek. Some of her relatives still live on the original farm.
Ken and Jean (dec) had two sons, Ian and Noel (dec) who both attended Grafton Primary and Secondary High Schools before completing BSc degrees at the University of New England, Armidale followed by higher degrees elsewhere.
Ken has five grandchildren and four step-grandchildren (through Noel’s second marriage, after the death of his first wife). He has two great-grandchildren (Patrick and Noel) and eleven step-great-grandchildren.
Ken has had a variety of occupations during his life.
After leaving school he worked for the Model Homes Company that carried out road constructing work, but as he was mechanically minded, he followed that up by operating a service station in Brisbane. In partnership with Charles Alvey in Grafton, operated a car dealership.
At the start of the war he applied to join the Air Force but was not accepted for medical reasons, even though he had been taking flying lessons. Ken says his small stature didn’t help.
Instead, he drove his own tip truck to help build airfields at Nabiac, Coffs Harbour and Evans Head. These were tough times and sometimes he had to load the truck with a hand shovel.
During WWII he also developed an interest in radio and electronics and up until the early 1960s had a radio and electrical sales and service business, which was located at 59 Prince Street, Grafton.
After Ken relinquished his electrical shop in Prince St, he and his wife ran a milk bar in the same premises, for several years. After this Ken drove buses on local routes for his brother Gordon and finished up spending about 10 years working in the local Electoral Office.
During his working life Ken was very interested in boats and boat building.
He built a “VS” class sailing boat in his grandmother’s garage; she lived next door to him in Greaves Street, Grafton.
Ken raced this boat against the likes of Salty Sellers who was the local champion in the late 1940s-50s. For a time, Ken was an office holder with the Clarence River Sailing Club.
He commenced construction of a 25-foot sailing boat in his backyard (which he ended up selling as scrap metal). He then built a 38-foot fishing boat “Warregai”, with the help of a friend.
It was built inside the disused North Coast Steam Navigation Co wharf shed below the (old) Grafton Bowling Club. The launching of the boat in 1957 was a rushed affair as the river was about to flood.
This required a very hurried removal of the roof of the wharf shed, followed by craning the boat out, using Oxenford’s punts – (this event was reported in the local paper at the time).
Another interest of Ken’s was tinkering with small trucks and he converted some to camping bodies. After retirement he did a number of trips with these up and down the East Coast.
Many people would possibly remember seeing Ken when he was in his nineties, walking around Grafton and South Grafton. But when he realised he could no longer manage walking, he bought himself a three wheeled electrical tricycle for his 100th birthday, despite his sons saying there were more conventional disability vehicles that would do the job.
He used it right up to the time he entered aged care at Whiddon Grafton on 11 September 2018.
Ken has maintained a keen interest in the building of the new Grafton Bridge and has visited and driven over it, courtesy of relatives and Whiddon excursions.
At Whiddon, Ken has maintained his interests by using a computer to write his correspondence, because he is finding handwriting difficult.
We wish Ken a very Happy Birthday for this coming Monday October 5.