Les Messenger.
Les Messenger.

Farewell to Digger Les

LES Messenger used to say that he had saved Australia.

Mr Messenger, who died on June 6, aged 83, was one of the Clarence Valley's WWII servicemen.

According to his family, Mr Messenger didn't often talk about the war ? except when telling a story or making a joke.

"He used to tell us that when he was on the Kokoda Track all the other soldiers would be yelling 'wait for us, Les!' and asking him to slow down," said his son, Dally.

"He also said that once he complained about having blisters ? until he saw one of his mates who had no feet, so he just put his shoes back on, and kept on walking."

Before heading off to war, where he served in the Middle East and Papua New Guinea, Mr Messenger married Daphne. They met while she was staying at her grandmother's house, next door to where he was working.

"Apparently he'd seen me walk past a window and he came home and said 'I've fallen in love with a blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl' ? but that was my sister. It turned out he'd meant me though and we ended up married," Mrs Messenger said.

The pair celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary in March, a couple of months after they moved to South Grafton from Wooli, Mr Messenger's self-declared paradise.

"He was the unofficial mayor of Wooli," his daughter, Carrol, said with a smile.

"He loved it out there. He'd get a real kick out of walking down the street and if anyone was looking a bit sour he wouldn't let up 'til he'd got a smile out of them. He'd say g'day to everyone and loved the young people. He'd call all the boys 'knucklehead' and all the girls 'Katrina' so they'd tell him their real name."

She said her father also loved to bodysurf.

"He loved it out in the surf. And he loved going up to the Wooli cenotaph and watching the sun rise every morning. He just wasn't the same when he had to move to Grafton to be closer to the hospital."

Nevertheless, Mr Messenger could regularly be seen zipping around the area on his scooter.

"He lived life to the full every day, even right up until the end," Carrol said.

"He always used to burst into song," said Mrs Messenger.

"He'd always be singing 'O Lord it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way, I can't wait to look in the mirror because I get better looking everyday'. You'd hear him singing it at the top of his lungs."

Mr Messenger's friends and family, including wife Daphne and his children Irene, Dally, Carrol, Allan and Julie, farewelled him yesterday at the Grafton Funeral Home Chapel. In a nod to his years of military service, the RSL presented Mrs Messenger with an Australian flag. 'Slipping Away' was played ? a song banned from the Wooli pub because Mr Messenger had played it so often.

Carrol said the family would miss him.

"We'll miss everything about him. He was a real character."

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