CENTENARIAN: Alex McKay turned 100-years-old on Thursday.
CENTENARIAN: Alex McKay turned 100-years-old on Thursday. Rob Williams

'Charmed life': War hero celebrates 100th birthday

ALEX McKay believes he has led a charmed life and for the centenarian, reaching 100 was never a matter of if but when.

There is still plenty of life left in him and up until a couple of months ago, he was mowing the lawn of his two ha block at Lowood right on the Brisbane River.

It was at the age of 17 when he madly fell in love with the water and began a journey from ship hand to a captain involved in crucial seafaring missions during World War Two.

Alex was born and raised in Broken Hill, New South Wales in 1919 and grew up on a large station but decided as a young man his future would be on the ocean.

During the war he was part of the US Army Small Ships Section, an organisation formed in response to advancing Japanese forces in the South Pacific.

He was one of many Australian citizens seconded by American forces to assist war efforts in New Guinea.

Carrying supplies, food, ammunition and more than 100 troops at a time in and out of New Guinea brought with it plenty of close calls with the ships regularly coming under fire.

It is not a period he likes to speak about in detail.


Alex McKay has turned 100. Old images of he and his wife Joan.
Alex McKay and his wife Joan. Rob Williams

With his steady hand at the wheel, Alex would guide ships into 'hiding holes' in the cliffs on the coastline during the day before venturing out under the cover of nightfall.

He met wife Joan in a break in the conflict and married her within two months and together they settled in Oyster Bay to start a family when the war concluded.

The family moved back to New Guinea in 1964, where Alex did local shipping work for the family of former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan.

Sir Chan was one of the first to offer his congratulations on his birthday on Thursday with a phone call.

Alex and Joan returned to Australia in the early 1990s, a couple of years before their house in Rabaul was lost in a volcano eruption.

It was in Lowood where they found their "piece of paradise" but Joan sadly passed away a decade ago.

He had a lucky escape when the floods in 2011 destroyed the home.

If it wasn't for Lowood policer officer Darren Rumbelow taking a wrong turn, he would not have been plucked from the waters.

"I've lived a charmed life," Alex smiled.

Daughter Christine said her father was a determined and kind man who had created strong bonds in both Australia and New Guinea.

"Dad always set goals," she said.

"He never bragged or spoke about them but he's always had achievements. That's the way we were taught and that's the way I've taught my children.

"Just do it. If you have a job to do, just do it."

Alex's granddaughter asked him the secret to reaching 100 years of age.

His response? Don't die.