Parkes man John Chatman celebrates turning 95

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: John Chatman with his sons Ian, Andrew, Stephen, Mark and David. Photo: Kristy Williams.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: John Chatman with his sons Ian, Andrew, Stephen, Mark and David. Photo: Kristy Williams.

With a twinkle in his eye and cheek still in his heart, Parkes' John Chatman blew out his 95th birthday candles last Friday with a gusto belying his age.

John's sons Stephen, Ian, David and Andrew, who reside in Sydney, and youngest son Mark, from Sunbury, Victoria, all made the journey to Parkes for the special occasion.

Next door neighbours Peter and Ann McIntyre, and Ron and Noreen Symonds, also joined John and his family for afternoon tea and a slice of some positively delectable carrot cake.

John took great delight in regaling the Parkes Champion Post with some cheeky tales of his 95 years on earth, and it is very clear he has led a life to be very proud of.

Born in 1926, John has lived his entire life in the Parkes district.

He is the eldest child of Bill and Grace Chatman of Kiola, Murga.

When he was three months old, the family moved to Spring Valley at Cookamidgera, where Bill and Grace farmed until their retirement.

John attended Cookamidgera Primary School, but left in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II to work on the farm with his father at Spring Valley and later share-farmed on an adjoining property.

A smile creeps over his face as he describes growing up in Cookamidgera.

"I had a very happy childhood, I did grow up in the Depression years but we made the most of what we had and the farm was always a great place to be regardless of how much money we had," John said.

What a party!: Left to right back row: Peter and Ann McIntyre (neighbours), Ian Chatman, Andrew Chatman, Stephen Chatman, Mark Chatman, Noreen and Ron Symonds (neighbours). Sitting in front: David Chatman and John Chatman (the birthday boy).

What a party!: Left to right back row: Peter and Ann McIntyre (neighbours), Ian Chatman, Andrew Chatman, Stephen Chatman, Mark Chatman, Noreen and Ron Symonds (neighbours). Sitting in front: David Chatman and John Chatman (the birthday boy).

John purchased his own property, Ferndale, in 1948 and married his beautiful wife Dorothy in 1952.

They farmed a bit of everything; wheat, sheep, goats, cattle, chicken - and when they weren't working they were playing pranks on each other.

John describes the humourous moment something expected popped it's head out on his honeymoon with Dorothy.

And one gets the feeling this is just one example of a lifetime of cheekiness.

"When we went on our honeymoon in a little pink caravan, we went to pick up some leftover chicken from my mum and someone had put a goat in the back!

"We played a lot of pranks on each other - we used to always take the rotor out of the motor so no one could get anywhere," John said.

Together John and Dorothy farmed and raised their family of six sons: Ian, Andrew, Stephen, Mark, Donald and David.

Devastatingly for the family however, in 1989, when Donald was 22, he lost a battle with leukaemia.

John and Dorothy were both longstanding members of the Cookamidgera Methodist (later Uniting) Church where John taught Sunday School and Dorothy played the organ for decades.

The boys and John all waxed lyrical about the golden days of Cookamidgera when there was a general store, tennis courts, a railway station, post office, primary school, a cricket pitch and trucking depot at the birthday party.

So much so, it sounds like a tourist destination and an area not to miss!

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John farmed until the age of 82 when he retired and moved to Parkes.

It was quite an adjustment for John after so many years living and working hard on the land, but the transition was made easier by the fact that many of the neighbours were also retired farmers.

Peter and Ann McIntyre, who were at the party, lived on the property adjoining Ferndale.

Neither couple had any idea where the other specifically lived, and Ann recalls with great glee they day she found out they'd bought a house right next to their great friend.

"We came up one day to check something at the new house and we saw this person trying to put the car in the garage with the garage door down and I said to Peter (husband) there is a very elderly man next door - well it turned out to be John," said Ann.

And don't worry, he ended up getting the car in safely!

John's beloved wife Dorothy died in October 2019 after 67 years of marriage, and John continues to live alone in the same house.

He might have a bit of hearing loss but John remains sharp as a tack, and as cheeky as ever.

Although physically separated from his family, John maintains a keen interest in the goings on of his many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren - of which John says there are quite a few!

"I have 16 great grandchildren, but I've given up on the Christmas presents - there are too many," he says.

That glint in his eye was present the entire party, and here's hoping that absolutely never goes away.

Happy 95th birthday John!

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