Harry and Edna's everlasting friendship

When John Henry (Harry) Symons turned 100 on New Year's Day, there was one close friend who wasn't going to let distance or frailty get in the way of attending his shindig.

Edna Hughes, who turned 100 last November, travelled from her St Georges Basin unit to help her former neighbour, Mr Symons, celebrate his birthday at Hillside at Figtree.

The pair had shared a boundary fence at Gwynneville since the 1940s. Mr Symons's Lucinda Street home backed on to Mrs Hughes's Mountview Avenue property.

"I was determined to make his birthday party," Mrs Hughes said.

"We've known each other for more than 50 years and I saw him through a lot of things, including the death of his wife."

Mrs Hughes moved out of her Gwynneville home about 12 months ago to be closer to her daughter, who lives in the Shoalhaven.

Mr Symons moved into Hillside last November. On the day the Lucinda Street home went to auction - November 9 - Mr Symons was in St Georges Basin for Mrs Hughes's 100th, leaving the finer details of the real estate transaction under the watchful eye of his grandchildren.

The neighbours had been friends for decades and looked out for each other after the death of Mr Symons's wife Eileen in 2003.

"I would take the paper up to him each morning and he would come over for tea one night a week," recalls Mrs Hughes. "We just kept each other company."

Mrs Hughes was a young wife and the mother of a 12-month-old daughter when she learnt her husband Lloyd, a major with the AIF, had been killed in Malaya in 1942. The couple had just built their home at Gwynneville when Mr Hughes went to war in 1940.

Mrs Hughes never remarried.

She described Mr Symons as a gifted man in the field of engineering, having taught himself all the skills he needed to work as an engineer involved in constructing power stations and later, cooling towers.

Mr Symons's granddaughter, Kelly Presser, said her late nan and Mrs Hughes were also great friends, attending church together each Sunday.

The neighbourhood bond continued between Mr Symons and Mrs Hughes right up to their final years living in their family homes.

"She would put her blind up in the back window when she woke up and when Harry got up, he would put up his blind in the kitchen window, so that they could see each other was fine," Mrs Presser said.

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