As a young man growing up on a farm in Latvia, Dr Artis Medenis could never have dreamed he would someday be bestowed one of Australia's greatest honours.
The 92-year-old Gerringong man has today been awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to veterinary science and the community.
After a long career dotted with outstanding achievements, Dr Medenis said his greatest source of pride was his integrity.
"My mother always taught me to be honest and that's what I can be proud of - that I was always honest and did my best and I can look everybody in the eye," he said.
Dr Medenis studied to be a vet in Latvia, graduating just months before he and wife Aina fled the country and its communist regime.
"The communists would have deported us to Siberia, the children of farmers," he said.
After three years' working in northern Germany, the couple migrated to Australia in 1948 to start a new life.
It was in Gerringong the Medenis family put down roots and where Dr Medenis went on to found Gerringong Veterinary Clinic, specialising in dairy cattle.
Then in the mid-1970s, he opened a small animal practice, which is now Albion Park Veterinary Clinic.
Dr Medenis is a foundation member of both the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists and the Cattle Veterinarians Association.
He was also the official veterinary surgeon for the Sydney Royal Easter Show for seven years.
But Dr Medenis has also proved his dedication to the community through the Rotary Club of Berry-Gerringong, where he has been a member for 48 years and has twice been granted the prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship.
Through Rotary he founded the Rural Scholarship Fund in 2005 and has personally donated $70,000.
Having retired just seven years ago, Dr Medenis now spends his time being followed around by his faithful cat, Adolf, a former stray.
"He's my very good friend," he said.
Dr Medenis said he was thrilled and surprised by the OAM honour.
"I feel that it's a big thanks for my life work in Gerringong as a veterinarian for 52 years," he said.