HAVING struggled for food in the Depression and being nearly killed in World War II, Jim Mooney is succinct when asked his secret to reaching his 100th birthday on Sunday.
"Luck," the great great grandfather told The Border Mail as he sat at the kitchen table of his Wodonga home of more than 30 years.
"We grew up through the Depression, we never knew what a decent feed was," Mr Mooney said.
"I left home because there was no food there."
Having started work as a boy helping hand milk 120 cows at a Gippsland farm, he had moved to a property outside Kerang when he decided to enlist for World War II in 1939.
After marrying his sweetheart Edna, while on 24 hours leave from the army on January 13, 1940, he arrived in Palestine later that year and his service took him through north Africa and to the siege of Tobruk.
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A shell burst after he told his comrades to hit the deck and they survived because it exploded upwards rather than outwards.
Around half his company of 135 did not survive a foray at Tobruk that saw renowned ABC war correspondent Chester Wilmot join them.
"I often thought I should have stayed there with them, I think everyone's the same, you regret and wonder why did you get out of it and they didn't," Mr Mooney said.
On returning to Australia, after having been a PoW, he was advised on discharge to go bush and ended up on a soldier settlement block along the KIewa River at Dederang.
"I honestly do think my life has been hard work and I've loved it," Mr Mooney said.
"There was nothing I enjoyed better than getting out with a shovel or a pitchfork and sweating like buggery."
Mr Mooney continued on the land until the age of 55 when he joined security firm Armaguard with former Wodonga volunteer of the year Reg Morley his boss.
Foiling a robbery in Albury's Dean Street was among the dramas he had over a decade with the firm.
In retirement, the Mooneys caravanned before Mrs Mooney's death in 2005 at 85.
Mr Mooney continued walking for up to two hours a day up until the age of 96 and only quit driving last year.
Generations of family visited his home on Sunday, wishing him 'Happy 100th' before he savoured an apple and cinnamon cake.
Mr Mooney concluded: "I've had a good life, I can't complain."
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