Len Unger of Alectown turns 100

CENTURY: One of Parkes Historical Society's early members and Alectown farmer Len Unger has lived through a century. Photo: Christine Speelman
CENTURY: One of Parkes Historical Society's early members and Alectown farmer Len Unger has lived through a century. Photo: Christine Speelman

Meet Len Unger – he’s sprightly, switched on, determined, a bachelor and a Parkes man through and through.

He’s also just celebrated his 100th birthday.

Len turned 100 on Monday, February 27, born in 1917 at Nurse Porter‘s Maternity Hospital, the Hermitage that was once in Church Street, but is now a parking lot.

He isn’t one who craves attention but understands all the fuss behind the special occasion.

Len enjoyed a birthday morning tea at his home at Rosedurnate Aged Care Plus Centre and Retirement Village on Monday.

He’s also attending dinner with family and friends tonight.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to living normally,” Len said.

“It would be great if it just happened overnight but there’s been a build up to today, normally I don’t like the attention.”

But behind the honesty, there was a determined gentleman.

“My great-grandmother came over on the ship in 1860, she lived to be 98 years old,” Len said.

“As I was getting into my 90s I thought I had to at least equal her.”

And he said it felt rather good to do that, but admitted he didn’t feel any different reaching triple digits. 

It also appears that it runs in the family.

“My older brother – Herb Unger – was 101 years old,” Len said.

Among Len’s birthday gifts was a Parkes Shire medallion he received from Parkes Shire Council a couple of days ago.

“It’s a work of art, I didn’t know it existed,” he said.

He also received a card from the Prime Minister, but it was the letter from Parkes’ mayor Ken Keith that meant the most to Len.

“I received a letter from the mayor – I appreciate that more than these other formalities,” he said.

Len grew up and spent most of his life in Alectown, attending Alectown School for eight years before working full time on the land as a farmer.

“I would have still been living in the house there but it burnt down in 1991,” he said.

“I guess it was a blessing in disguise because it would have taken a lot to shift me into town.

“I rented (in town) for the next 20-odd years and came to Rosedurnate three years ago.”

He never married or had children – he calls himself a “lifelong bachelor”.

But perhaps Len is best known for being one of the – and now only surviving – early members of the Parkes Historical Society.

“He was a member of our first museum in 1967, 50 years ago,” current president Yvonne Hutton said.

“He lent us the money to buy the old Masonic Hall, our second Museum and was a founding member of our Antique Machinery Collection.”

Len was the Society’s research officer for many years, writing 12-15 publications.

“He has written a number of small historic books about this area, he is the only member of those early people alive,” Yvonne said.

“It’s quite an achievement and we would like to recognise him and wish him a happy birthday.”