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“I think I’ll stay right here”

If there is one thing that has been consistent through Donald Cooper’s life, it’s inconsistency. He’s lived “here, there and everywhere” and worked more jobs than he can count. But here, at Palm Lake Care Deception Bay, after years of travel and adventure, at 80-something years of age he has finally settled down.

Not many people have uprooted their life and moved across the state on their own – even fewer have done it before adulthood. But for Brisbane-born ‘Coop’ (as he prefers to be known), that was only the beginning of his life of adventure. At the height of World War II, when Coop was 10, his mother sent him out west to the perceived safety of Cunnamulla. Though he came home again later that year, young Coop yearned to return to rugged central Queensland – so he took it upon his 10-year-old self to hop aboard a train and do the 24-hour journey back.

“Don’t worry, I called my mother once I got there,” he says with a grin. “The owners of the Cunnamulla pub took me in as one of their own.”

By the time he was 13 (“and a half,” Coop assures), he had found work as a boundary rider, checking fences for holes by day and sleeping on an army cot in a tent each night. After that, Coop had a brief stint as a jockey and, later, a horse ringer. By 16, he had moved to Toowoomba and found work in the cellar of the New Western Hotel, getting drunk (accidentally) off the fumes of the over-proof rum he was bottling up. Next, it was back to Brisbane to work for a foundry at Newstead and, after that, Coop joined the army.

It was during Coop’s work for the national services that he met his wife, Noela. They were happily married by 1958, but Noela’s lung condition saw Coop embark on another big move – this time to St George, then to Dirranbandi, where Noela fell pregnant with the couple’s daughter.

“The next few years were spent going back and forth to Brisbane for specialist appointments,” Coop recalls. “The doctors told me I would be lucky to get a few years with Noela.”

Thankfully, Coop got four decades. They had two children together – a daughter, Louise, and a son, James – and continued to move all over the state. Coop worked for council, sold Electrolux vacuums and Olympic tyres, and the family moved to Roma, Townsville and, eventually, back to Brisbane. Coop took up a maintenance job with TAB, but soon something more exciting caught his eye – chauffeuring State Government ministers around. Like we said – life was an adventure for Coop.

After Noela’s passing, Coop moved to Toowoomba where he made fast friends within TOMNET, a social group for older men. He picked up new hobbies, making pens and laser-engraving wooden artworks, and continued to travel the world. Even when Coop came to Palm Lake Care Deception Bay in August of this year, it wasn’t supposed to be permanent – it was a respite stay. And like many Palm Lake Care respite ‘visitors’ before him, Coop settled in nicely. He finally, after eight decades of adventure, had made up his mind to stop – for a bit.

“And do you know what?” Coop says. “I think I’ll stay right here!”

With carers and nursing staff just seconds away, a light-and-bright ensuite allowing Coop his own personal access to the great outdoors, and all the meals, activities and neighbourly friendships he could ask for, it turns out it’s here, at Palm Lake Care Deception Bay, where Coop might finally just settle down… If we’re lucky!