Max Hair Anzac, 93, holds ceremony in his driveway, Kiama Bugle, 25 April, 2024

Once upon a not so many years ago Max “Bunny” Hair, 93, was the returned veteran who, prouder than proud, would raise and lower the flag at ANZAC Day ceremonies in Kiama.

Then Covid hit, and he was deeply upset that government restrictions meant he could not pay his respects to fallen comrades, and could not wear, with pride, his own medals along with the medals of his father and his two brothers, all of whom also served. 

And so neighbours, Glenn and Kerry Shepherd, decided to organise a small ANZAC Day ceremony at the bottom of Max’s driveway in Kiama Downs. 

“We rallied around the neighbourhood and people wanted to be part of it,” he recalls. “Max has been a good friend and neighbour to us all and is highly regarded. Everyone was locked down, we were all told we couldn’t go. Then the government told us we could go to the end of our driveways and celebrate. So we decided to do it at the end of Max’s driveway.” 

“We were probably doing the wrong thing, but we did it anyway. It has gotten bigger every year. For me, to see that man so proud when he stands there, why wouldn’t you be there. We show respect to our service people through Max.”  

“If that’s not a good thing, what is?”  

Max Hair, 93, honors Anzac Day at the bottom of his driveway in Kiama Downs.

That was 2020, and what began as a small, essentially humble event has grown in strength. Over the intervening years, other neighbours joined in with Glen to mark the spirit of the occasion, pinning paper poppies on their chests and setting up candles in their own driveways.

This year, some 30 neighbours and relatives gathered for the Dawn Service, led by Max himself.

His chest festooned with medals, he welcomed everyone in a clear, strong voice before relaying stories from his time in the navy, and reading out the famous Ode of Remembrance as his son lowers the Australian flag to half-mast: 

They shall grow not old,

as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them,

nor the years condemn.

We shall remember them. 

And then the playing of the last post as the sky lightens.

A relative read out the list of his medals, including one for good conduct, to which Max cheerfully cuts in: “I don’t know how I got that!”

Max, “Bunny”, joined the navy in 1948 and served in the Korean War. He is one of the last survivors of those with whom he served. 

“It was a big part of my life being in the service. I am Navy through and through. My only regret is I didn’t talk my two boys into joining the Navy.” 

Max Hair in his Navy days in the 1940’s.

“As to the meaning of Anzac Day, I think of my father, and I think of the camaraderie. Remembrance.” And he laps into an unusual silence. “Remembrance, the service life. Most of them have gone by, have left now.” 

An encounter with the Hair family leaves you with one impression, just how loving they are, including Old Max. You give love to receive it, and the biggest excitement in the family is the impending arrival of their fourth great grandchild. “He tells me every single day how much he loves me,” his wife of 65 years Josie says, beaming. “Max has been a wonderful husband. He was always for the family. We have been very, very lucky, and very very happy.” 

The family pore over photograph albums, commenting with astonishment at some of the images of their father and grandfather when he was young. 

Daughter Debby, who lives in Jamberoo and works at Shellharbour hospital, recalls when her father used to go up to Sydney for the Anzac Day march. 

“When dad marched past us, he used to always break rank and come over and give us a cuddle,” she recalls. 

This year’s ceremony ended with Max thanking all the friends, relatives and neighbours who had shown up. “Next year will be bigger and better,” he declares.

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