Walter Duck celebrates 100th birthday but can't party with his Comboyne "family"

Happy birthday: Comboyne's Walter Duck will celebrate his 100th birthday on April 8, 2020.

Happy birthday: Comboyne's Walter Duck will celebrate his 100th birthday on April 8, 2020.

He served his country in World War II but the coronavirus crisis means Walter Duck was not be able to celebrate his 100th birthday with family and friends.

The Comboyne resident has lived on the plateau for 97 of those years and his family had planned an "open invitation" event to mark the occasion.

His daughter, Wendy, says her father continues to be a private man but was looking forward to meeting up with his fellow Comboyne residents.

"It is disappointing and sad really," she said. "Although his birthday celebrations are not cancelled, they are only postponed.

"The party was open to all Comboyne residents but we will be having the party later in the year now."

Walter Duck was born on April 8, 1920 in the Kendall Hospital. He was the first boy born in the hospital alongside five girls.

His parents, Ernest and Violet Duck were farmers who lived at Bobbs Creek. The family relocated to Comboyne when Walter was just three years of age.

He grew up with five siblings - Lorna, Keith, Val, Ron and Lance and they attended Comboyne West Public School.

Walter and his sister and brothers would walk to and from school each day, and often had to complete chores too.

As was the norm for the day, Walter left school at 13 years to help his parents run the farm for the next three years.

He then went scrub cutting - cutting logs for sawmills around the district. His primary role was to cut mill logs for Smith and Ellis sawmill at Langley Vale.

With the drums of war beating loudly, Walter enlisted in the AIF when we reached his 21st birthday and in March 1942 he left for Dubbo before heading to Wilsons Promontory in Victoria for training.

In the army now: Walter Duck when he enlisted in the AIF.

In the army now: Walter Duck when he enlisted in the AIF.

On October 10, 1942 he travelled to Port Moresby then flew into Wau where he was part of a mission to stem the advance of the Japanese invasion.

They were buying time to enable the Seventh Battalion to make contact with the Japanese.

He also served in the Ramu Valley on the west coast. During this period they were bombed twice and their grass huts burnt to the ground in the subsequent bombing.

Shortly after, Walter was part of the team ordered to build a tent city in order to draw the Japanese away from Goroka where an airstrip was under construction for the American air force to use as a base to land and refuel.

Walter served in a number of other regions around New Guinea during his service years.

He was eventually discharged from the AIF on December 29, 1944.

During his war service, Walter was unaware that his father had passed away, so he returned to the family farm to help is mother.

He continued at a variety of jobs including sawmilling and tractor driving over the years.

In later years he was well known as the cattle truck driver picking up stock at various properties throughout the Comboyne area.

On June 21, 1947 Walter married Maureen "Noni" Holmes in the little church on the main street in Wauchope. It was a family affair, with Walter's brother Val marrying Noni's sister.

The two families were neighbours and Walter had known Noni since they were children.

The newly married couple remained on the plateau and eventually purchased a dairy farm, staying there for the next 17 years.

The Gills Road property was home to their three children, Noel, Wendy and Lyn.

They eventually sold the farm and purchased a home in Comboyne.

Sadly, Noni passed away in 2001 while Noel also passed away.

Celebration: Walter Duck will have to postpone his 100th birthday celebrations.

Celebration: Walter Duck will have to postpone his 100th birthday celebrations.

Wendy says her father didn't mixed that much but would often meet up with the neighbours every now and then while on the farm.

"There was a lot of young people around that time of dad's life but the family tended to keep to themselves," she said.

Despite some failing eyesight and a medical problem in March last year, Walter remains in pretty good health.

"He still gets around as much as he wants and keeps himself occupied," Wendy said.

And while he still considers Comboyne "home" Walter does spend some time at Wendy's home in Raymond Terrace while Lyn also spends time with him.

His faithful companion is Bruno, his fourth King Charles Spaniel - a rescue dog from Wagga Wagga.

Walter has six grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren to look forward to seeing.

"His nephew Neil continues to be a huge lifeline for Walter when he is at Comboyne while Noel's wife Gail continues to be a source of strength as well," Wendy said.

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