Back-to-back 100th birthdays for World War II sailor

Howlong great grandfather Harold Wilkes turns 100 - twice

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A great team: Harold and Lesley Wilkes in their front yard of the unit where they celebrated his 100th birthday on Tuesday. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

A great team: Harold and Lesley Wilkes in their front yard of the unit where they celebrated his 100th birthday on Tuesday. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

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Howlong great grandfather Harold Wilkes marked his 100th birthday but can have another shot at his milestone thanks to a driver's licence mix-up.

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A GREAT grandfather turned 100 on Tuesday but he could mark the big birthday again on Wednesday according to his driver's licence.

Harold Wilkes was united with family, including Lesley, his wife of 75 years, as he celebrated the milestone at his Howlong, near Albury, NSW, unit.

The birthdate on his licence reads June 3 after an error in obtaining it, although Mr Wilkes has June 2 on his birth certificate.

Nevertheless, the World War II sailor was delighted to be able to rejoice in reaching 100 this week.

"It's wonderful, how can you react to the fact you've had the good fortune to have good health and to be surrounded by family - you can't," Mr Wilkes said.

When asked why he thought he had lived to 100, the retired signwriter replied "good luck and good health".

"I should have been killed in 1943 on December 4th," Mr Wilkes said.

"Four destroyers were sent into a Japanese submarine base and we weren't expected to come out."

Looking back: Harold Wilkes enjoys some winter sun in his Howlong garden as he celebrates his 100th birthday. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

Looking back: Harold Wilkes enjoys some winter sun in his Howlong garden as he celebrates his 100th birthday. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

Having grown up in Melbourne and worked in the city, Mr Wilkes retired to Howlong in 1987.

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Asked if country life had aided his longevity, Mr Wilkes rose from his loungeroom chair and went to collect a box, it held his OAM which he received at the age of 98 for services to the Howlong community.

He then recalled how his first voluntary work saw him paint a metal signboard outside the Anglican church which was so faded the words were not visible.

Mr Wilkes said the greatest thing he had learnt over his century was to enjoy life and be close to family and friends.

That was reflected in his two children Karen and David, five of his six grandchildren and nine of his 12 great grandchildren attending his home for celebrations on Tuesday.

As for the future, Mr Wilkes plans to be around for wife Lesley's 100th birthday in 2023.

"As long as she's there I'm there," he said.

"The magic is still there, we enjoy one another's company.

"We might not always agree but it beats talking to yourself."

Mr Wilkes also wants to keep that driver's licence with its muddled birthdate.

"I just request I have five kilometres to drive down to the golf club and to drive to the river and put a rod in the water and fish," he said.

The story Back-to-back 100th birthdays for World War II sailor first appeared on The Border Mail.

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