Helen marks a century

Helen with her son Derek and the Queen''s congratulatory card. Picture: ROMAN KULKEWYCZ

By Roman Kulkewycz

Bunyip resident of six years Helen Kirton celebrated her 100th birthday on 18 December at the Tonimbuk Hall.
All of Helen’s four children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren were there to help her celebrate.
Daughter Nicki and granddaughter Jodi flew home from London for the occasion, son Ric and grandchildren Jess and Dylan visited from the United States, daughter Michele came from Perth and granddaughter Lara with her two daughters made the trip from Sydney.
Her son Derick and family live locally.
This was the first time that all of Helen s descendants had been together with her at the same time.
Helen Kirton (nee Wheeler) was born in Narrabri, New South Wales, on 18 December 1917.
She had two brothers who were both killed in World War II – one at sea and the other in New Guinea.
Of her two sisters, the youngest died aged eight. Her other remaining sister passed away in 1989.
Helen’s younger years were spent at Narrabri.
She then went to boarding school at Mossvale and on to the University of Sydney where she completed an Arts Degree in 1939.
She has vivid memories of her childhood years – talking to the Swaggies, who were never a problem, sleeping on the veranda and her father’s luxury cars, namely a T Model Ford, a Chandler and an Armstrong Siddeley.
In 1940 she met RAAF Wing Commander Peter Birch, a spitfire pilot and after a short courtship of 10 weeks the couple married.
Following Peter’s death in 1962, Helen married David Kirton who was a grazier.
Sadly, David passed away in 2010.
Some of the significant events of Helen’s life include the birth of her four children and living in Sydney during the war.
She remembers when the Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour and recalls the family going by sea to the UK in 1955 to live there for a little over two years while Peter was there on exchange with the RAF.
Possibly the most significant event happened when Helen was flicking through the pages of the Melbourne Age and saw a tiny article which read that human WW11 remains were found in New Guinea in the same area that her 23 year old brother James was killed.
Helen made inquiries and found that these unknown bones had been sitting in a war museum for 10 years.
The confirmation these were her brother’s remains helped bring the family closure after many years.
Her other brother died at sea when the boat was attacked and sunk. His remains were never recovered.
In 2010 the Australian Government sponsored Helen, son Derek and daughter Michelle and other family members to attend the funeral of her brother James in New Guinea.
A military nurse and a Padre were part of the official contingent James was buried with full military honours at the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery.
Nowadays, Helen enjoys embroidery and is a member of a local sewing group.
She also likes watching the tennis and swimming on TV.
Helen said her longevity was due to healthy eating, a positive outlook on life and her two glasses of white wine before dinner each night.