YESTERDAY’S memorial service for Keith Swinton took place only a few hundred metres along the Hopkins River from where he died at Lyndoch aged care centre — the facility he helped establish more than 60 years ago.
Mr Swinton was looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday on Anzac Day, but fell short of the milestone by three weeks.
“He felt his strength failing and said to us about a week ago he was sorry to disappoint, but he knew he couldn’t hang on,” his daughter Helen Dean told The Standard yesterday.
“He remained as sharp as a tack, but his body just wore out.”
His departure was exactly nine years and 10 minutes after his wife Joyce died.
Mr Swinton led a remarkable life which began three months before World War I broke out and exactly a year before Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli.
He was the third of five children of George and Florence Swinton and the grandson of William and Ann Swinton of Scotland, who started in 1865 what would become Victoria’s and possibly Australia’s oldest continuing retail business names.
Keith learnt the work ethic at a young age progressing through every section of the large Swinton enterprise.
In his 20s, during the tough economic times of World War II while his brother Frank was away in the military forces, he took over management of George Swinton and Sons with his wife. Frank returned to share the management.
He had learnt driving skills at a young age, piloting the company delivery truck and family car.
“Dad as a 16-year-old did most of the driving because his father was deaf and had a habit of burning out the clutch,” Helen said.
“When they had country stores quite often dad would go out and the fellows would let him drive the big cumbersome trucks.
“He travelled a lot and loved adventure — a trip over the alps when there were no made roads, up to Sydney for the opening of the harbour bridge and by ship to Western Australia to visit relatives.
“At the age of 93 he flew to England to see his first great-grandchild.
“We have a saying in our family — you wear out, you don’t rust out.”
After World War II, Mr Swinton saw the need for an aged care facility in Warrnambool at a time when hospital and intensive home care were the only alternatives.
“But he was quite determined and bravely went guarantor while the Lyndoch site was purchased because they couldn’t get government money,” Helen said.
“Dad and Ernie Harris pushed hard to get Lyndoch running. It was a gamble when people were saying it wouldn’t work. For many years dad was on the board of management and spent the last part of his life in a wing which had been named in his honour.”
Mr Swinton was also a founding member of the yacht club, was on the cemetery trust, an organist at St John’s Presbyterian Church and a member of various other groups.