HAVING just turned 70, Dr Thomas Fiay reluctantly agreed to go into semi-retirement last week.
A familiar face to patients at the Jacaranda Health clinic in Grafton, Dr Fiay bought the practice from Dr Ray Jones in 1999.
In order to achieve accreditation, he moved the practice to larger premises across the road in Pound St in 2000 and even though he sold the centre to its current owner Patricia Tracey of Grafton in 2010, he remained on as a GP.
Born on the island of Waigeo, West Papua, Dr Fiay described an idyllic childhood in his coastal fishing village of Kabare.
He continued his education on the New Guinea mainland under the Dutch system before winning a scholarship to a high school in Hollandia.
"The deputy director (of Education) came and said 'hands up those who want to go to Port Moresby to study to be a doctor'," Dr Fiay said.
He and a friend thought "why not?" and the pair began their six-year medical degree.
After working several years in Papua and marrying his first wife Carole, Dr Fiay moved to Sydney in 1972 with two young children and began work at the Parramatta District Hospital.
He lived in Sydney for 15 years before moving to Parkes in 1986 where he married his second wife Kathryn in 1994, the first marriage ending in 1983.
The couple moved to Grafton in 1999 and purchased Dr Jones' practice before another divorce in 2004. Dr Fiay met his current wife Rhonda at the Salvation Army Church in May 2006 and married her 16 months later.
Dr Fiay said he would continue doing nursing home visits and private visits but was concerned he may be "bored stiff" in retirement.