The Anzac Day ceremony at John Paul Village, Heathcote, last year so touched 91-year-old resident Phil Ready that he immediately put pen to paper.
A keen poet who turned to writing after suffering a stroke, Phil’s words evoked images of the towering cliffs of Gallipoli – and the towering Anzac legend he has seen grow.
“There was just something about the ceremony,” he said.
“And it’s not like most poems about war. It’s not glorifying; it just tells it as it is.”
Phil said Anzac Day still bears a special significance for his generation and for the older residents of John Paul Village.
“There are quite a few people here who lost somebody in the First World War and Second World War, and of course other conflicts.
“I had two uncles serve in the First World War; one lost a leg and took his own life.”
Phil turned 18 in the later years of World War II but was working in a protected industry as an apprentice fitter and machinist.
Phil, who had been living in Sutherland before moving into John Paul Village a decade ago, suffered a minor stroke in 2009 that took him more than six months to recover.
“It affected my speech for quite a while,” he said. “I joined the poetry club here, and one day we read a poem but someone said, ‘Anyone can write a poem, Phil, you could do it!’
Phil immediately took up the challenge, starting with a piece to mark the 25th anniversary of John Paul Village in 2010.
“I started there, and I kept going,” he said.
Often a particular word or phrase inspires Phil, lingering in his mind until he creates an entire poem around it.
“But if anyone asks me to write a poem about something, I cannot do it. They just pop up.”
A self-confessed chocoholic who isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself, Phil enjoyed his work and a busy life with his family.
But his life has not been without tragedy.
His beloved wife died of melanoma in 1992, and their adopted son died in a road accident.
Phil had written poetry just a couple of times previously, when a situation particularly moved him. One of those times was after watching his son spiral out of control in the clutches of a drug problem that eventually landed him in prison.
“At one time when he was in jail I wrote a poem and sent it to him.”
Phil enjoys time with two surviving sons, five grandchildren and great-grandchild.
He is determined to remain involved in the community – “I do what I can here; I’m one of those people that has to be doing something” – and encourages others to do the same.