Surviving being shot down flying a mission over Belgium in World War II was just the start of the remarkable life of Orange resident Dr Alex Jenkins who died last week, aged 92.
Dr Jenkins was shot down in Belgium close to the German border in 1945.
“We were blown to bits at 20,000 feet,” he said several years ago.
“I only survived because as the pilot I was sitting on a parachute which was part of my seat.”
The sole survivor of a crew of seven was back in Australia on his 21st birthday.
He became a hero in Belgium where flags were flown at half-mast following his death in Dudley Private Hospital last Tuesday night.
His widow, Pauline, said a street was named after him in the Belgian town of Lummen.
“We didn’t know it had happened,” she said.
“My daughter saw it on Facebook.
“He was a big name in Lummen.”
When they returned to Belgium they were honoured with ceremonies including on one occasion having a police escort.
“Alex said, ‘I’m usually chased by the police, not following them.”
Following the war Dr Jenkins studied science and was one of the foundation professors at the University of NSW.
“His payroll number was 007,” she said.
Dr Jenkins worked in mining and metallurgy all around the world including in the US, Canada, Indonesia, Guatemala and England and was a consultant to major companies.
Books and videos have been made about his life.
After his first wife, Joy, died of breast cancer in 1982 he met Pauline a few years later.
“The first time I went out with him he said, ‘I’m going to marry you.’ I said ‘Oh yeah’.”
But, his words proved right.
“It’s been a very interesting journey,” she said.
“We celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary last week with good bottle of French champagne.”
She said Dr Jenkins had 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
His grandson, Ed, is the captain of the Australian rugby Sevens team.
Granddaughter Danielle Ingle received her doctorate in science at Melbourne University on Saturday wearing Alex’s bonnet and gown.
Dr Jenkins’ funeral is at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Byng Street at 1.30pm on Monday.