orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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June 5, 2013

New Zealand driver, 105: 'I don't think I'm old'

(Continued)

NGATAKI, New Zealand —

According to Guinness World Records, the world's oldest driver was American Fred Hale Sr. who was on the road until his 108th birthday in 1998.

Edwards drives three times a week to the store 15 kilometers (9 miles) down the road. He picks up groceries on Sundays and the newspapers on other days. Occasionally, he says, he'll drive farther afield, to a medical appointment or to visit friends.

He grew up in England and he learned to drive in his uncle's car, a De Dion Bouton.

"It was something new. Cars were just coming in," Edwards says. "I mean, it was just marvelous."

He got his first license in 1925 at age 17. Two years later, he saw a Salvation Army ad seeking young men to work on the farms of England's colonies.

"They told me Canada was very cold, Australia was very hot, but New Zealand, they said, was just right," Edwards says. "So I picked New Zealand."

He eventually bought a Dodge car, converted it into a truck and started transporting the fossilized gum of native kauri trees from Snells Beach in the north to the city of Auckland. Soon he was working 16-hour days and transporting butter, groceries and gas; he bought new trucks and employed a couple of drivers.

Gas rationing during World War II effectively ended his business. For much of the rest of his working life, he captained tourist and car ferries, fibbing about his age so he could work beyond what was then the mandatory retirement age of 60.

His wife, Lesley, stopped driving about 30 years ago. Her husband always took the wheel, anyway, and he will stay with it as long as he can.

"As far as I'm concerned, driving is a part of me," he says. "I mean, that was me. I was a driver. And I could drive anything. Anything at all."

 

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