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September 13, 2023

Journey Through 102 Years: The Life of Helen Lea

“My name is Helen Lea, and I’ve been lucky enough to reach the grand age of 102. I’ve always felt pretty good for my age. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had such a unique and eventful life. You see, I never had any children of my own, but I did have the pleasure of being married twice. My second marriage was truly something special. You won’t believe it when I tell you this, but I married the boyfriend I had when I was just 16, a whole 63 years later. It was simply amazing. 

My first husband worked for Qantas, so we had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling. I guess that’s where my love for adventure started. We explored different parts of the world together, and I cherish those memories to this day.

After my first husband’s health deteriorated, and he had to move into a nursing home due to Alzheimer’s, I decided to reconnect with my old boyfriend. I found his number in a Brisbane fan book, of all places. It was an unexpected stroke of luck.

We rekindled our friendship and discovered that we had been out of touch for nearly 50 years. Four years after my first husband passed away, we decided to get married. He passed away on his 86th birthday, while my second husband, bless his heart, lived until he was 98. 

Before I got married for the first time, I worked at the Commonwealth Bank from the age of 17 until I tied the knot at 34. My job was to meticulously record every withdrawal and deposit on paper. After our honeymoon traveling the world, I went back to work since we didn’t have any children. I tried my hand at different jobs, always eager for new experiences.


One of my favourite hobbies was oil painting. I’ve even got four of my paintings in my room right here at RSL LifeCare. When we lived in Frenchs Forest in Sydney, our neighbour jokingly said, “I believe you’re going to open an art shop!” Little did I know that this offhand remark would turn into reality. We moved to Queensland and opened an art shop. I managed to sell about 200 of my own paintings during that time. Still, we didn’t keep the art shop for long, deciding to sell it and use our long service leave for more adventures.” 

– Helen Lea, Resident at RSL LifeCare Phyllis Stewart House, Narrabeen


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