Maurice Zamel’s life and loves at 100

In the first instalment of our new Moments in Time series, centenarian Maurice Zamel of Montefiore Randwick shares some significant memories and treasured mementoes.

On turning 100

What’s the secret to reaching 100? Not thinking about it! Not considering the saga of oh, next week I’ll be 90 or next month I’ll be 95. I never thought about it in that way whatsoever. I was just concerned to live the day as it came along and do my best. The main thing that I’ve followed in life was to treat my fellow man with respect and i never regret having that theory– that every person I’ve come across was just as good as I am and not to think less of them than I do of myself.

Moving to Australia

My full name is Maurice Zamel and I was born in Poland in 1920 and emigrated to Australia in 1927. It took six weeks for the ship to get from Marseille to Perth, then we sailed on to Melbourne where our distant relatives lived. I had a brother who was 2 years younger who was always ill. My mother had to take care of him so she let me, the 7-year-old wild one, go and I was all over the ship. They used to find me in the kitchen, the engine room… everywhere! She sent out people to look for me because I was never in my cabin. So that’s the wild one that I was as a seven-year-old. Well I got here anyhow.


From the air force to married life

In 1940 I was in the Air Force A1 and had to go back on a mission to Melbourne. On one of my evenings off I went to visit some relatives when somebody knocked on their door and a man came in with a lovely girl. His name was Harry Goldstein and he introduced me to his daughter, Sylvia. After that dinner party I managed to get her phone number and after one meeting with this girl I rang my mother in Sydney and said “Mum, I found the girl I’m going to marry! “My mother was very happy about it. When I finally got some leave from the Air Force to look for Sylvia, she was a dancing teacher in the city of Melbourne. I got down there, we danced and then I had to get back to camp within a certain time, so she saw me to the Flinders Street station and I said “Well you’ve got my number and I’ve got your number. I want this to be permanent,” and she said, “Same with me”. Our marriage lasted 65 years!

Sporting success

I was quite a success in the sporting world. I started lawn bowls when I had to give up golf due to my war injury playing up. I joined the bowls club and within 12 months I was a teacher. I won every game in my club from the singles to the pairs to the club championships. I ended up a national coach and umpire. By the time I retired from the game, I’d taught 80 people to play. I was a North Bondi Lifesaver when I was younger, too. I swam like a fish, and did a lot of surfing and lifesaving. I was there on what they called Black Sunday because so many people got caught in a rip. In those days we didn’t have any automatic life-saving equipment, so we had to reel in with rope by hand and I seared the skin off my hands from pulling in the rope and getting the boys out that day. My mother knew I lived down at the beach, so every time there was a story about Bondi the first thing I needed to do was call Mum and tell her everything was alright.



Finding love again at Montefiore

I was very lonely after Sylvia passed away, and two years later I decided to go on a cruise. I was alone on the ship and all of a sudden this woman by the name of Betty Bloom came out from nowhere and she said “Hello Maurice! I know you! You were at the Hakoah Club.” I thought to myself “Now that’s not a bad looking girl!” but she had two men with her. So, every day for a week I wanted to chat to Betty but she always had these men with her, so I kept my distance. On the last Friday of the cruise I led the Shabbat service and I in she walks and says “I’d like you to meet my sons”. I nearly fell over. From then on, we started going together. I didn’t like the term ‘my partner’ so I said to Betty one day “Look I don’t like introducing you as my partner. Will you marry me?” and she said “Yes!” so we got married here at the Monte. I didn’t invite anybody, but we had 250 guests – the whole of the Monte came to our wedding.

As told to Lara Ritch.