Big birthday surprise for family patriarch

While Sunday's Australia Day festivities consumed the region, Wollongong's Paul Stylis was celebrating something else.

It was his 80th birthday and a surprise party was thrown by his family and friends - with some travelling from Gladstone, Dubbo, Sydney and Brisbane.

"We can't ever remember him having a party," his daughter Karen Kyriacou said.

"He's always been there for us, he lives for his family."

Mr Stylis was born in 1934 and was the first baby born at Sydney's Crown Street Women's Hospital.

His father Chris travelled from Cyprus to Egypt, then to Australia as a stowaway in a ship, and his mother Maria moved to Australia in 1920 to meet a potential spouse before dismissing him.

When his father made it from Fremantle to Sydney by cutting sleepers for the railway, they met, married and had two sons in the early 1930s.

Mr Stylis left school at 15 to help support his family and put his brother through medical school.

"He also played football as a junior for South Sydney and promised his mum if he got hurt, he would stop," Mrs Kyriacou.

"And his first game in the grades, he got hurt. That was his footy career over."

Dabbling in a number of jobs, he moved from working in a deli and getting gigs for Johnny O'Keefe, to managing a team in Wollongong's old Market Street Hospital and working at Metal Manufacturers in Port Kembla.

He met his wife Maria in Sydney when he moved two doors down from her house.

"He used to see her before then, catching the bus," she said.

"He said to his mate, 'I'm going to marry that girl one day' and then they ended up living in the same street."

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