Poetic justice for veteran’s connection

A character, poet and beloved member of the community, Les Smith has a natural ability to brighten the lives of those he crosses paths with.

“When you’ve got so many friends around you, there’s no room for enemies to come in,” said the veteran, who celebrated his 100th birthday in October.

“The friends I have here in Moree and how they look after me is great.”

That philosophy and ability to make connections are a driving force of Les’ independence. Not only did Les serve his country, but the renowned poet still drives his beloved car and is ingrained in the Moree, NSW community. Les does everything independently outside of basic cleaning services he receives from the Department of Veteran Affairs, which equate to around one and-a-half hours a fortnight plus windows and gutters about once a year.

In making sure he has everything he requires, Aspire4Life’s Grahame recently connected with Les as part of his six-month assessment, and Les’ personality and quick wit instantly resonated. Inspired by Les’ approach to life, it was his poetry which left a lasting impression.

“He’s the sort of guy who endears himself to you very quickly,” Grahame said.

“He was a mechanic for most of his life, and he compensates for his physical losses through writing. He has been doing that for about 30 years and he won a competition when he was in his late 80s.

“One of his greatest joys comes from getting in his car and going for a drive, and taking the time out for a chat, you find these things out and it does them the world of good.

“His assessment was routine, but in the end, something personal comes from it.”

Although performing assessments are designed to cater to veterans in assessing their situation and needs, the impact was mutual, with Les offering to send Grahame a copy of one of his three published books. The best intentions regularly remain unfulfilled, but Grahame wasn’t in the least surprised when a signed copy of the book popped up in the mail a week later.

“There’s a few risqué stories and he chooses his words nicely,” Grahame said of Les’ approach to his writing.

“What I got out of it was ‘here’s a man that’s 100 years of age who’s clearly getting a lot of joy out of writing and having a chat’.”

Receiving a call to confirm the arrival, Les was humbled by Grahame’s response.

“I think he was pleased by the book and he said he enjoyed the contents,” Les said.

“It was a good feeling.”

In returning the favour, Grahame planned on taking a group photo in the office with the book to send back to Les. The two were set to meet at this year’s Ipswich Poetry Feast, which unfortunately couldn’t happen. Regardless, Grahame was very pleased with the latest edition to his book collection.

“What a wonderful thing for him to have done, and we want him to know he’s appreciated,” Grahame said.

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