On 24 December 1916, 105 years ago, Mr Norman Lewis was born, not yet knowing the impactful life he was going to lead.
To Norman, reaching 105 means continuing to live independently, with a little help from Resthaven Marion Community Services to help maintain his home.
‘I was born and bred in South Australia, along with my sister. Our parents were great role models – our father being a successful businessman, running a tailoring business on Grote Street.’
‘This was the time when polio was around. We lost my sister to it when she was nine years old. I have never forgotten her.’
For Norman, education has been a standout throughout his life.
‘I enjoyed school, and particularly enjoyed the study of geology, which I later pursued.’
Norman completed his high school education at Norwood High School, with no idea of what he was going to do next.
‘I found myself working in a packing company called Cornells, packing glassware, crockery and tobacco. You had to be rather good at it, otherwise, the items wouldn’t make it to the other side in one piece!’
‘It was here where I met an older gentleman I will always remember. He saw my potential, and one day handed me an advertisement for forestry school, and that was that.’
Norman soon began his studies at the University of Adelaide, in a Bachelor of Science. He studied over two years on a part-time basis, attending night-school.
‘I did my cadetship with the Woods and Forest Department, as it was called back then, you’d know it today as Forestry SA.’
‘I worked under professor Douglas Mawson for a period, and we would often speak about what it would mean to travel to Antarctica, with its breadth in geological history. That was my dream.’
After working in the field for a few years, Norman met his wife, Mavis. He was crazy about her.
‘My university held dances quite frequently, and when I was around 28 years old, I came across Mavis, who tagged along with her friends one evening.’
‘I want to say Mavis was one in a million, but she really left all the other girls behind. Every single one of them.’
Norman and Mavis married in 1948, soon welcoming two children into their family, Ian and Jo.
‘We all had great fun and did lots of travelling with my work.’
‘I was the first employee in my department to demand that where I go, they go too. Having them with me was what was most important.’
In 1957, Norman was awarded a scholarship to study his honours at Oxford University, in England.
‘This was a fantastic opportunity, not just for myself, but for my family, as we had only really known Australia.’
‘It took us six weeks to travel by ship to get there. There was no flying back then.’
Norman praises his late wife, Mavis, during this time.
‘Mavis always impressed me. She was able to adapt to any situation and fit in anywhere – which helped to move the family around.’
Later, the family returned to their home in South Australia, settling down in Glenelg North, where Norman resides today.
Norman retired as Head of the Department, in his 70’s, with a goal in mind.
‘I may have been in my 70s, but I still had the strong desire to visit Antarctica, and that is what I did.’
‘I made the long trip on a special cruise ship specifically made for Antarctica. I ended up going three times in total, the third when I was 92-years-old.’
‘The children were older and had their own lives then, and Mavis fell ill, so all three times were solo trips for me.’
During his life, Norman wrote and published five books on forestry, one of them being, ‘100 years of Forestry’, which is still used by tourist groups today. He has also received several medals, a highlight being the Imperial Service Order, contribution to South Australian forestry.
Today, Norman continues living independently in his home, is involved in various social clubs, including two Rotary clubs, two Probus clubs, and remains an honorary member for Forestry SA.
Happiest of returns on your birthday, Mr Lewis. You are an inspiration!