Newton Howard- A True Survivor

Newton Howard is a survivor.  Few if any could lay claim to surviving two major pandemics occurring 100 years apart.Newton was two days old when his mother Beryl died in a Newcastle Hospital from the Spanish Flu in 1919.

Newton Howard is a survivor.  Few if any could lay claim to surviving two major pandemics occurring 100 years apart.  But at 101 years old, this Bellorana resident is going strong, just counting the days until he can regain his freedom and get his thrice weekly fix of coffee and “something sweet” at one of his beloved Bellingen Cafes.

Newton was two days old when his mother Beryl died in a Newcastle Hospital from the Spanish Flu in 1919. “Ships from all over the world would dock at the coal port in Newcastle.  A crew member from one of these ships was admitted to Newcastle hospital with an unknown illness, which was later determined to be the Spanish Flu.  My 22 year old mother was in hospital waiting for me to arrive when she contracted the illness,” says Newton.

Newton was raised until the age of eleven by his maternal grandmother and four aunts.  “I was bloody terribly spoilt,” says Newton, who proclaims it was an idyllic early childhood despite the Great Depression and the absence of his mum.  His father remarried his mother’s best friend, which meant a shift to Sydney at the age of eleven and a very different existence with his father and his new step- mother.  “I hated her from the outset.  She believed children should be seen and not heard.”  Fortunately, this relationship blossomed later in life.

Due to financial difficulties Newton was forced to leave school before completing his leaving certificate.  However, he managed to secure a junior position in a chartered accounting firm and eventually completed his accounting degree.

“I enrolled in the Australian Army the day Menzie’s declared war in September 1939 and remained in the Army until the war ended,” says Newton.  He was accepted at officer’s training school at Holdsworthy, graduating as Lieutenant Newton Howard and spent the bulk of his active service fighting in New Guinea.  It was a fairly innocuous event, resulting in a fractured leg that gave Newton his ticket home.

Olive and Lieutenant Newton Howard

“I was stationed for a spell in Dubbo.  The officers were invited to a game of tennis against the nurses from Dubbo Base Hospital.  A young nurse came prancing onto the court like a two year old.  I clamped my eyes on her and thought to myself- she will do me.”  That was May 1943.  One month later Newton and Olive were engaged and by July they were married.  Their first of five children was born nine months later.    This partnership lasted 67 years and 92 days.  When I asked Newton to tell me something about Olive he quickly responds, “she was pretty sexy.”

Newton is proud of his long and happy life.  I’m intrigued by his longevity. “It comes down to eating the right things at the right time. Just today my breakfast was an egg, sardines and baked beans with spices of ginger, sesame seed, turmeric and cinnamon sprinkled over the top.  I heard a talk about spices a while back and now I’m sold on their health benefits.”  Apparently Newton juiced his home-grown vegetables even before “juicing was a thing”.  However, rumour does have it that he has quite the sweet tooth, which doesn’t appear to be detrimental in this case.

Newton and Olive with their five children

These days Newton enjoys life at Bellorana. “This is a bloody wonderful place.  They certainly look after me.” Once weekly ‘Zoom’ meetings with his family and regular visits from his daughter Helen, the two chatting over the back fence of Bellorana, has kept him going during lockdown.  But Newton will know the world is right when he is sipping coffee once again in one of his favourite Bellingen haunts.

Article that appeared in the Herald

10 Comments

  • Avril Daniels says:

    What a truly wonderful story about a local man and his extraordinary life – I would be so happy to buy him a coffee and something sweet when he is allowed to go down to Bello town for his fix!!
    This is the sort of history that is so important to document, too much is lost or forgotten. How many of us wish we had talked to our family and asked about their stories and life experiences.
    Thank you for publishing this – will never be forgotten

  • Mary Bernadette says:

    What a truly beautiful story I read this morning as I sat and sipped my cup of tea and thought the same as you Avril how Lovely it would be to buy this beautiful man his morning coffee and something sweet to eat. To reach this wondrous age of 100 years and 10 months I shall lift my champagne glass to him this afternoon. A beautiful reminder to remember the simple things in life can give us so much joy as we see on his beautiful face. Thank you Rod, Jo, Mindy and the team of I love Bello for bringing us such beautiful stories and photographs of yesteryear.

  • Graziella says:

    Such a beautiful story. How lucky are we to hear about his wonderful life. Thank you 😊

  • Cynthia Miller says:

    A beautiful man and a beautifully written story. Congratulations.

    Newton has many stories to tell and loves to share them. He’s retained a pretty good memory for his age and still has a twinkle in his eye! We love you, Newton.

  • Helen Howard says:

    Thanks Jo and Rod for such a wonderful write up about my dad. He is chuffed.
    We too are amazed by his long healthy life but none as amazed as he is. He thinks losing his mum so young must have earned him special blessings.
    He’ll be glad to get back downtown where he is much loved. Thanks to the wonderful people of Bellingen and Bellorana for the care he is given.
    Helen Howard

  • Pamela Haigh says:

    What a great life story and how glowing with happiness Newton , Olive and their children look
    He sets such an example for us all with his lifestyle of healthy eating , growing his own veggies and hard work and oersistance in becoming an accountant after leaving school so early!

  • Erik de Jong says:

    Good on you Howard, lovely to have you as a neighbour and great to hear more of your story. Keep on doing what you do!

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