Verdun Albert Everson attains 100th year

Verdun Everson with nephew John Moody

Verdun Everson with nephew John Moody

Born a hundred years ago in Bellingen on 19 January 1918, Verdun was the seventh child of eight for Jane Ethel (Blow) and Henry Charles Everson. He’s the second member of his immediate family to join the Centenarian Club, following his sister Muriel, who lived to be 107.

His name reflects the era of his birth, as from February to December 1916, Verdun in France was the site of a crucial battle during World War l. Also, HMS Verdun was a well-known British naval vessel, commissioned to return "The Unknown Soldier" from the Verdun battlefield to Westminster Abbey.

Our Verdun first lived in Gordonville, where he spent his infancy, later moving to Hydes Creek, both in the Bellinger Valley. They were a dairy farming family of Irish descent, and life on the farm was tough. Farms then were mostly no larger than 100 acres, yet they had large families and managed well.

He often told stories of rounding up the cows for milking on a cold frosty morning, barefoot, aiming as far as possible to land on a piece of warmed paddock where the cows had lain. This preceded a two-mile walk to the one teacher school, barefoot, on a gravel road. There never any electricity on their property, although it reached the town by 1926. Transport to Bellingen was via horse and sulky, crossing by way of a ford across the river before there was a bridge. In fact, Verdun’s older sister, Sylvia, took the honours of cutting the ribbon on the present day bridge in October 1993. On that occasion she was the oldest resident in Bellingen.

By the time of his 11th birthday the Great Depression had begun, and life was even more difficult.  At 14 years of age he left school to help out on the family farm. On occasion he would also help his older brothers who had a trucking business delivering oranges up to the New England area, returning with potatoes. Later, he worked at Urunga and drove the local school bus. As a teenager he won a road race cycling between Bellingen and Urunga. At a young age he fell in love with motorbikes, hiding his first motorbike from his mother in some bushes on the farm.

After World War II his parents retired from farming and moved to Allawah in Sydney with Verdun and younger brother Clifford, who were both employed as tram conductors. Verdun soon spotted a couple of eligible ladies living just three houses away and gallantly offered to take their mother along with his mother  for Sunday afternoon drives. He soon decided Nellie Dove was for him and after four years he tied the knot. He went on to be blessed with three daughters, Julie, Elizabeth and Meryn, plus three sons-in-law, five grandchildren and one great grandchild

After gaining his Trolley Bus licence in 1955, Verdun became a bus driver for 35 years. He was married to Nellie for 63 years until she passed away aged 91.

When he was 97 years old, Verdun’s his three daughters took him back to Bellingen for a short but longed for holiday. The town, his birthplace, has immensely influenced his life, and he retains a strong connection to it.

He has often been described as a true gentleman, and to this day remains young at heart, uncomplaining and modest, appreciative of all those around him. When asked, he states he has had a good life with "no regrets".

Verdun is now in the care of the Salvation Aged Care Residential Service at Collaroy in Sydney.

He celebrated his 100th birthday with a gathering of friends and relatives and received the best wishes of Her Majesty the Queen and our own Prime Minister.