New year welcomes latest Aussie centenarian

Enjoying a modest and uncomplicated life may have contributed to the longevity of a Brisbane man who is Australia’s first centenarian of 2023.

Richard Thomas, who lives at the Carinity Wishart Gardens aged care community, celebrates his 100th birthday on January 1. The newest member of the Carinity 100 Club for centenarians was born in Brisbane on the first day of 1923.

Richard Thomas became Australia’s first centenarian of 2023 when he celebrated his 100th birthday on January 1.
Richard Thomas became Australia’s first centenarian of 2023 when he celebrated his 100th birthday on January 1.

Family relative Michael Kearney believes living “a modest life in many ways”, starting with growing up in a blended family in Banyo, may have contributed to Richard’s long life.

“A depressed post-war era saw him live with brothers, sisters, step-brothers and step-sisters in a big family. The times meant that he rarely left the postcode, going to school there and enjoying his days in the outdoors,” Michael said.

After leaving school at 15, Richard trained as a counting machine technician. He spent his entire career working for NCR (National Cash Register Company) in Brisbane.

When aged in his early-20s, Richard married his wife, Clare Kearney. They were happily married for over 75 years before Clare passed away in 2021.

Richard and Clare lived a quiet life in the Holland Park home that Richard built over more than a decade. After buying the land in the 1940s, the couple would visit the block each weekend to work on the house, while living in a spare room at Clare’s parent’s home.

“As they had no car, they would catch the tram from West End and carry tools and building supplies with them in the tram. Slowly and with some family serving as labourers at times, they built the modest home themselves, stump by stump and plank by plank,” Richard said.

“Richard was determined and patient and this is no more evident than in the meticulous work that saw their small self-built chamfer board home completed. Thirteen years of weekend and annual holiday work was what it took them to complete the project and move in.”

Richard Thomas pictured with his wife of 75 years, Clare, in 2012.
Richard Thomas pictured with his wife of over 75 years, Clare, in 2012.

Richard and Clare never had children and enjoyed their life together in the home they created. They never felt the need for adventurous travel, journeying only modest distances for beach holidays.

“Richard’s preparedness to work hard, without the need for luxuries or expensive belongings, meant he was a simple yet quiet man who found pleasure in the very ordinary but important aspects of life,” Michael said.

In his spare time Richard liked working in his garden, enjoying simple healthy food and the odd punt. In retirement he worked part-time at the then Brisbane Cerebral Palsy League, supervising young workers with disability in the workshops.

Despite suffering a stroke in his 80s, Richard kept driving and remained as independent as he could with Clare by his side until their mid-90s. Richard continues to lead a simple life at the Carinity Wishart Gardens aged care community.

“Richard has led an uncomplicated life, always calm and considered and never caught up in the need for image or prestige or position,” Michael said.

“While living with dementia now means he is largely bed bound and a little disconnected at times, he remains happy, gentle and grateful for the wonderful care he receives from Carinity carers and medical staff.”

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