Jim MacKenzie

During his final Anzac Day march in Perth, Jim MacKenzie had planned to march only part of the way.

But, as his fellow 2/16 Battalion Association members remembered yesterday, when he turned a corner to see crowds were lined up six-deep, he insisted on marching right to the end.

And, as fellow former servicemen, family and friends gathered to remember the man who had been WA's oldest veteran, many recalled how, despite being 104 years old, he was never slowed down by his age.

A funeral service for James "Jim" Ross MacKenzie was held at Hale School, where he had studied and returned annually for old boys' day.

Fellow 2/16 Battalion member Jim Moir recalled how a chance meeting with Mr MacKenzie at a Returned and Services League reunion led to the pair being close friends.

Mr MacKenzie served in Syria and New Guinea and the pair were part of the Kokoda Trail campaign in 1942.

Mr Moir said at the reunion more than half a century later, he was introduced to Mr MacKenzie.

Mr MacKenzie had told him he had carried Mr Moir's brother on a stretcher after he was shot on the trail.

"I said 'that was me', and he said, 'I thought you didn't make it'," Mr Moir said.

Mr Moir said he believed it had been "fate" that the pair had met that day and they would share a friendship which would last until Mr MacKenzie's death on January 16.

"People are like blood brothers," he said. "We were that close and if there ever was a person I liked, it was Jim."

Mr MacKenzie became a lieutenant of the 2/16 Battalion and Mr Moir said Mr MacKenzie believed he could have taken the role earlier had it not being for him being so friendly with all his fellow servicemen.

Members of the battalion recalled how Mr MacKenzie was like an encyclopaedia and "seemed to know everyone".

"He could recount to many people who came to see him in recent years about their relatives who they never knew, during the second world war in particular, and he could always tell them something about them," friend Peter Norrish said.

"He was wise, friendly, intelligent and very switched-on.

"He could greet you in a group of 30 people by name, every one of them and know who their relatives were and where they fitted in among everyone else."

RSL State secretary Phil Orchard said Mr MacKenzie would be sorely missed by his battalion mates.

"Jim had pride of place in our Anzac Day parades," he said.

Immediately after leaving the army, Mr MacKenzie married Nan, and returned to his family's farm at Northam, where the couple raised a family of their own.

He retired from farming and moved to Cottesloe in 1970.

His children and grandchildren yesterday recalled his sharp wit and how they liked to hear stories of his war days and time on the farm "over a cuppa".

In his youth, he had been a keen footballer and runner, swearing by a Thermos flask of tea before each race - advice he would later relay to his grandsons.

His son Ross told mourners his father had refused to give in to his old age, insisting on standing after marching on Anzac Day and turning down the use of a mobile walker when one was offered to him.

"He marched off with his walking stick under his arm," he said.


The West Australian

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