Sunday, April 28, 2024

Max Hair Anzac, 93, holds ceremony in his driveway

Courage - Honouring ANZAC


Mr GARETH WARD (Kiama)Today the Parliament of New South Wales recognises the Gerringong Naval Association. The association prides itself on creating a positive and engaging environment, where members, ranging from aviators ("birdies") to divers ("bubblies"), come together to share their unique experiences. This diverse blend also includes "stokers or clankies" (engineers), "subbies" (submariners), "dibbies" (seamen), "fish heads" (ship drivers), "greenies" (electricians), and "box packers" (logisticians). The monthly gatherings also feature a formal segment where business matters are discussed, and occasionally, remembrance is observed. At the helm of this maritime community is Commodore Lee Cordner, a veteran with 33 years of active service and 16 years in the reserves. The Secretary, Robert Foster, a former Warrant Officer, exemplifies the association's commitment to continued service. In retirement, Foster works as a veteran's advocate. The Gerringong Naval Association's legacy traces back to the late Bill Popple, a WW2 veteran and founding secretary. Although Mr Popple sadly passed away, his spirit lives on. The oldest member, Max Hair is 95. 

Max served as a 'dibbie' (Petty Officer) in the Korean War. I take this opportunity to thank all local defence personnel, both current and former, for their exemplary service to our nation.

Max Hair Anzac, 93, holds ceremony in his driveway John Stapleton

25 April 2024

Max Hair Anzac, 93, holds ceremony in his drivewayMax Hair with his wife of 65 years, Josie. 

Once upon a not so many years ago Max “Bunny” Hair, 93, was the returned veteran who, prouder than proud, would raise and lower the flag at ANZAC Day ceremonies in Kiama.

Then Covid hit, and he was deeply upset that government restrictions meant he could not pay his respects to fallen comrades, and could not wear, with pride, his own medals along with the medals of his father and his two brothers, all of whom also served. 

And so neighbours, Glenn and Kerry Shepherd, decided to organise a small ANZAC Day ceremony at the bottom of Max’s driveway in Kiama Downs. 

“We rallied around the neighbourhood and people wanted to be part of it,” he recalls. “Max has been a good friend and neighbour to us all and is highly regarded. Everyone was locked down, we were all told we couldn’t go. Then the government told us we could go to the end of our driveways and celebrate. So we decided to do it at the end of Max’s driveway.” 

“We were probably doing the wrong thing, but we did it anyway. It has gotten bigger every year. For me, to see that man so proud when he stands there, why wouldn’t you be there. We show respect to our service people through Max.”  

“If that’s not a good thing, what is?”  

Max Hair, 93, honors Anzac Day at the bottom of his driveway in Kiama Downs.

That was 2020, and what began as a small, essentially humble event has grown in strength. Over the intervening years, other neighbours joined in with Glen to mark the spirit of the occasion, pinning paper poppies on their chests and setting up candles in their own driveways.

This year, some 30 neighbours and relatives gathered for the Dawn Service, led by Max himself.

His chest festooned with medals, he welcomed everyone in a clear, strong voice before relaying stories from his time in the navy, and reading out the famous Ode of Remembrance as his son lowers the Australian flag to half-mast: 

They shall grow not old,

as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them,

nor the years condemn.

We shall remember them. 

One Fitness Free April Instory

And then the playing of the last post as the sky lightens.

A relative read out the list of his medals, including one for good conduct, to which Max cheerfully cuts in: “I don’t know how I got that!”

Max, “Bunny”, joined the navy in 1948 and served in the Korean War. He is one of the last survivors of those with whom he served. 

“It was a big part of my life being in the service. I am Navy through and through. My only regret is I didn’t talk my two boys into joining the Navy.” 

Max Hair in his Navy days in the 1940's. 

“As to the meaning of Anzac Day, I think of my father, and I think of the camaraderie. Remembrance.” And he laps into an unusual silence. “Remembrance, the service life. Most of them have gone by, have left now.” 

An encounter with the Hair family leaves you with one impression, just how loving they are, including Old Max. You give love to receive it, and the biggest excitement in the family is the impending arrival of their fourth great grandchild. “He tells me every single day how much he loves me,” his wife of 65 years Josie says, beaming. “Max has been a wonderful husband. He was always for the family. We have been very, very lucky, and very very happy.” 

The family pore over photograph albums, commenting with astonishment at some of the images of their father and grandfather when he was young. 

Daughter Debby, who lives in Jamberoo and works at Shellharbour hospital, recalls when her father used to go up to Sydney for the Anzac Day march. 

“When dad marched past us, he used to always break rank and come over and give us a cuddle,” she recalls. 

This year's ceremony ended with Max thanking all the friends, relatives and neighbours who had shown up. “Next year will be bigger and better,” he declares.

Kiama Downs couple celebrate 60 years of love with vow renewal ceremony

It was only fitting Max would surprise his wife with a vow renewal ceremony in Kiama on their 60th wedding anniversary.
Josie suspected Max was up to something for a while - and when Max volunteered to drive on Saturday, her suspicions were confirmed.
Max and Josie Hair on their wedding day in 1959. Picture: Contributed
Max and Josie Hair on their wedding day in 1959. Picture: Contributed
"I thought, 'Why are we going up there for coffee, I don't even like the coffee,'" she said.
Max parked the car near Peace Park and they were met by two of their grandchildren who were carrying flowers.
Surrounded by relatives, the Kiama Downs couple recited their original wedding vows at the park.
"He has always been there for me, he used to go and have a few beers with the fellas, but he's always been a family man," Josie said.
"Never a day goes past unless he tells me he loves me.
"I've never thought of leaving him, he has never thought of leaving me."
They first met while Max was serving in the navy in 1958, and married on February 28, 1959.
Together they have raised three children. They now have four grandchildren and have recently become great-grandparents. And like any long-term relationship, challenges have cropped up.
"We’ve had our ups and downs, our illnesses, our little domestic fights," Josie said.
Josie and Max Hair renew their vows at Kiama's Peace Park on Saturday to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. Picture: Contributed
Josie and Max Hair renew their vows at Kiama's Peace Park on Saturday to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. Picture: Contributed
"I do most of the driving now, it's a little frustrating for him. When I park on my own, I drive in nice and straight, with Maxie it always seems to be on a slant, or with more room on one side rather than the other."
Josie is thankful to have outlasted many of their dearest friends.
"We are very lucky to be here," Josie said.
"We still have each other."
Max and Josie hope to continue their happy life together doing the things they love - bowling, going on cruises and spending time with friends and family.