CYRIL Brown from North Nowra has been a part of Meals on Wheels for so long; he can’t quite recall how many years it has been.
However reliable sources inform the Register the 95-year-old was involved nigh on 40 years.
While Meals on Wheels was operating in the Shoalhaven before Cyril came on board, he was integral in giving the service new life.
His experience with Meals on Wheels and disaster relief in other parts of the country made him the ideal choice.
Cyril was a disaster welfare officer for 30 years, looking after people after events like floods, fires and shipwrecks.
“I worked in a number of country towns,” he said.
“What I most often saw was people had a need for food.”
His compassion for people in need is no surprise given his story.
He was left as a baby in the outer suburbs of Perth.
“A dear old lady took me from [when I was] a baby,” he said.
“I’ve never seen my mother.”
He went to work on a vineyard at the age of 14.
“My dad turned up and said ‘I want him to work on my vineyard’,” he said.
“So I’d ride my pushbike there and ride home at night. I never got paid anything.
“Then the time came I was paid two shillings a week.”
Cyril would visit the city dumps, gathering copper which he’d sell.
Eventually he’d saved enough to buy a motorbike.
“One day I jumped on my bike, packed a few clothes and never came back.”
He found a job sweeping floors in Fremantle to start with and studied wool classing at night.
“We’d go way north, maybe 10 men in a truck and go to big farms with 10,000 sheep to be sheared and classed,” Cyril said.
“We just went station after station, doing the wool sorting.”
Then World War II came and Cyril joined the army.
“The Japanese were bombing the north of Australia,” he said.
One day I jumped on my bike, packed a few clothes and never came back.Cyril Brown
“It would wreck everything. We had teams which got out quickly and filled the roads up again.
“We just had to do a job that needed to be done. I’m no hero, I just had to survive.”
After the end of the war, Cyril put his money into a little business.
“A Jewish man was running this business. He would buy a tree, cut it down, put it on a rail truck, bring it back and he would cut it into pieces and make tool handles,” he said.
“He didn’t have any money, so he made me a partner. I made different tool handles and we’d sell those for a living.
“It’s been a very mixed up, strange life.”
It was later Cyril became involved in disaster relief, travelling to many parts of the country to help out.
He came to the Shoalhaven after retiring and became involved with Meals on Wheels, where he was president for many years.
“Meals on Wheels has become more refined and better organised than when I started,” he said.
“It had to grow slowly. I remember going along, knocking on doors.
“I just enjoy helping people and Meals on Wheels helps people in many different ways.”
He also met and married his wife Ivy when he moved to the Shoalhaven.
“I came to church and I was introduced to Cyril,” she said.
“He quite liked me so he took me out. I was there six weeks and he said, ‘Will you marry me?’ I said no.”
However, “it eventuated” and the couple were married on December 16, 2007.
“My daughter said, ‘Mum, you can marry that man, he loves you’.”
Despite never sending out formal invitations, 120 guests showed up to celebrate with Cyril and Ivy.
“It was a really happy day,” Ivy said.
Current Nowra Bomaderry Meals on Wheels president Adrienne Blue said there was no doubt without Cyril, the service “as we know it today, would not exist”.
From 1967, home cooked meals were distributed from the school of arts in Nowra.
A year later, the CWA and council took over and officially incorporated the Nowra and Bomaderry MoW service.
In 1972 the Shoalhaven Hospital offered to cook meals three days a week.
This quickly increased to five days a week and was augmented by meals from the Private Hospital, Osborne House and the RSL.
“Although the need for MoW was patently obvious, the organisation as such was virtually non-existent – the service was, in fact, in danger of closing,” Adrienne said.
“The council approached Cyril.
“It was Cyril who canvassed support in order that the service could continue.
“It was Cyril who walked the streets and doorknocked the local area to recruit volunteers.
“It was Cyril who saw the need for our own premises and it was Cyril who set about finding the money needed.
“If we consider our service today to be in good health, and I do, it is to Cyril that we owe our thanks.
“From my first MOW committee meeting in July 2005 I have been in awe of his capacity, his compassion, his commitment – in fact his total belief in MoW and all that we stand for.”
If you wish to volunteer or know someone who might need the service, phone Janet Luxton on 4422 5111.