John is a Holdsworth participant who has been receiving support through the Home Care Package program for several years. This has provided John with weekly individual social support where he is taken shopping or to run errands or simply have some extra company. We recently visited John at his retirement village to celebrate his 100th Birthday where John shared interesting stories about his life.

John Gruschka, a centenarian with a fascinating life story, has spent his long and eventful life traversing continents and overcoming challenges. Born in Prague, John’s life took an unexpected turn during the 1939 persecution of Jewish people. His parents, fearing for his safety, sent him to live with a distant relative in Manchester, England, at the tender age of 14. Little did he know that this would be the beginning of a remarkable journey.

Arriving in Manchester with nothing but a suitcase and a violin, John’s early days in England were marked by unusual encounters, such as being introduced to his form master at school, who was nonchalantly swimming nude. Despite these eccentricities, John persevered and went on to attend university, where he studied chemical engineering. His academic pursuits were interrupted by conscription at the age of 18 but managed to avoid it, leading him to work as a chemical engineer in a factory.

In pursuit of new adventures, John eventually made his way to Australia, where he lived on a farm in the Hunter Valley. Here, he had a herd of cattle, each with a name, and one particularly stubborn and smart cow named Shirley. Little did he know that Shirley, the cattle, would share her name with someone who would later become an integral part of his life. 

John ended up finding love in the most unexpected place – online. Shirley, originally from South Africa, had a vibrant life herself. After spending 10 years in Israel and a stint in Louisiana, USA, she found herself in Australia. Shirley and John’s paths crossed over 29 years ago in a serendipitous encounter that started with a casual online chat on a site called J-Date.

Shirley, a strong-willed woman, at the time was leaving to visit her brother in South Africa for three weeks, and upon her return, found a warm welcome home email from John.

Despite initial hesitations, they began corresponding, leading to their first meeting at Bondi Junction. They met and their connection deepened through shared stories, discovering that both had lived in Israel for a decade.

The online dating era brought John and Shirley together, defying stereotypes and showcasing that love knows no age. A memorable tea at Centennial Park and their shared love for cooking solidified their bond. As they moved into a retirement community separately seven years ago, John and Shirley take turns in the kitchen, cherishing the joy of preparing meals together. 

John, now celebrating his 100th birthday in Maitland this weekend with his two children, four grandchildren and four greatgrandchildren, reflects on his life with wisdom. He emphasises that money isn’t everything and shares a piece of advice for those venturing into the world of online dating: “try more than once”.

John’s journey, from a young boy with a violin on a train to celebrating a century of life with a loving partner by his side, is a testament to resilience, adaptability, and the enduring power of human connections.

Are you 65 or over, looking for support and advice to keep you living independently at home? Are you new to the process, a little unsure how to go about it or just need a bit of guidance? Our experienced Community Care Team can support you to navigate My Aged Care at your own pace, and help you to achieve your goals.

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