Born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1942 - the eldest of five children - Len’s first gig was helping out at a country radio station playing “cowboy music.”
While his father laboured on the docks as a stevedore, Len fondly remembers his mother growing and selling strawberries in the backyard as she brought up her young brood.
Len studied economics after leaving school - but didn’t exactly find his niche at university. “I did as little as possible,” he laughs. “I preferred to get on the turps!”
At 24, the lure of travel and the open seas saw the young Kiwi join the Navy as a Petty Officer, before being promoted to Chief Petty Officer. Luckily, Len never saw active combat in his eight-year stint, enjoying goodwill visits to the Philippines, Hong Kong and the South Pacific Islands.
It was in Samoa that he met his wife, Sara, in a whirlwind romance. She asked Len to come home to meet her mother that very night - and he proposed to Sara the next day!
“I don’t know what her mother thought of me – she was blind!” he chuckles. But Mum must have approved, because the couple were married in Samoa in 1967.
Settling back in Wellington, Len worked in Immigration while Sara got a job in the laundry of a nearby hospital. “Life was good. We had lots of happy times and just got on with it,” Len remembers of those early years. Soon, their baby girl Juanita was born in 1973.
Juanita inherited her father’s love of travel and it was on a trip to the USA that she met and married her American husband. She now lives in Los Angeles.
Lured back to sea in 1983, Len and Sara immigrated to Sydney where Len returned to a career in shipping. Sadly, Sara died in 1987 at just 48. Len was now a widow at 44. “That was a really tough time. I don’t know how I got through.” But he acknowledges the help of some staunch friends.
After retiring, Len became a co-ordinator and chef with Meals on Wheels in Sydney’s south.
“I don’t know how I got the job, but I did!” Len reflects on the period, in which he made 180 meals a day.
The 79-year-old has become a regular smiling face at SummitCare Randwick since his arrival in March, taking to his new home like a sailor to water.
“This is a family here,” he says. “I have a nice room and the meals are good. I’m not as young as I used to be, but I am young up here,” he says pointing to his head, eyes twinkling and finishing with a belly laugh you could probably hear across the Tasman.