PERCY Bates, hearing not a sound from the world for his 100 years of life, has well and truly heard with his heart and soul.
Having celebrated his 100th birthday on August 14, he communicates with great feeling about the joys of his life and about his faith.
The walls of his room at the Symes Grove Anglican aged-care and retirement complex at Taigum on Brisbane’s northern outskirts speak loudly of his loves.
Standing out are a photo of Percy with his wife of 70 years, Nellie Amelia, who died eight years ago; a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and other religious icons; and memorabilia of his mighty Brisbane Broncos rugby league club.
“My wife and I were always together,” Percy said of the woman he met at Nundah when they were both 17, and who he married at 22.
He said his Catholic faith had been at the centre of his life since childhood; and, when it comes to his love of sport, “the Broncos are No. 1”.
Percy has not let his deafness hinder him in pursuing his loves, including his faith in Jesus Christ, with gusto.
Recalling his battle to be part of the Church as a child, his absolute frustration shows in his frown.
“When I was a little boy, my mother got me to church, but I couldn’t hear the readings or the sermons (or anything the priest said),” he said.
“I knew nothing (of what was said), and I’d ask my brothers and sisters, and they’d say ‘I’ll tell you later’, but they never told me.
“So I had to find out myself,” he said, pointing to his Bible.
He discovered what Mass and his faith were all about by constant reading of Scripture.
“I’ve had faith in God throughout my life,” he said.
“I always read the Bible.”
It’s the kind of faithfulness and enthusiasm that seems to typify Percy’s attitude, and the spirit that endears him to others.
Denise Anderson, who makes pastoral visits to Catholics at Symes Grove every second Friday with other Zillmere parishioners and who was there the day they had a party for Percy’s 100th, said he was marvellous, especially for someone of his age.
“He never misses a Mass or liturgy (at Symes Grove), and he participates fully and joins in,” she said.
Symes Grove counsellor Genny Hodge, who helped with communication during an interview with Percy, marvels at his vitality and spirit.
She particularly admires “his lovely, friendly, open manner”.
“He’s very well loved among the staff,” she said.
“His disability hasn’t stopped him from being a happy man.
“He lives his Christianity and it’s a huge source of strength.”
Ms Hodge said Percy was ever ready to help other deaf residents having problems.
Using a white board, he has even run classes in sign language for staff.
Percy has always been one to offer help.
He’s been involved with the Deaf Society of Queensland all his life, and his zest for living has extended to his family, his work and his sport.
He and Nellie, who was also deaf, had two daughters – Amelia and Hazel – and his working life included 11 different jobs between 1931 and 1942, starting as a collector for the Queensland Deaf and Dumb Mission (now Deaf Services Queensland) for 11 years and including 35 years with Ford Motors at Eagle Farm.
There was no holding him back as a sportsman.
He played 10 different sports between 1927 and 2009, including soccer, cricket and tennis as a youngster, and later, lawn bowls, carpet bowls, swimming, ballroom dancing and rollerskating.
His sporting memories include one day scoring 232 runs for Valleys.
He also recalls that in 1930 he played for a Queensland state school soccer team at Lang Park (Suncorp Stadium) and the Gabba.
Around the same time he played in a Queensland school cricket team.
These days, Mass and liturgies at Symes Grove are highlights.
Asked what those opportunities meant to him, Percy said, “It feels good.
“Jesus is there; it feels good.”
Percy is given photocopies of the liturgy sheets so he can read and follow proceedings, and he keeps them for later reference.
As for turning 100, Percy said nothing had changed.
“I don’t feel any different,” he said.
“I don’t feel old and sick.
“I feel healthy, strong and happy.”
Percy said he didn’t feel like he was 100 – “maybe 70”.
How could it be any other way for a man who has never smoked, drinks only on special occasions, stayed active, enjoyed a lifetime of love with his wife and reads the Bible regularly?
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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