St John’s Oldest Volunteer Shares Some Insight For St John Day

Written by: The Hawkesbury Phoenix


St John NSW’s oldest volunteer, Hawkesbury’s Alexander Crass, 89, chats with the youngest volunteer, 7-year-old Penelope Ryan.

Monday, June 24 was St John Day, and St John NSW celebrated the selfless commitment and service of 2,800 volunteers across the State.

St John NSW volunteers are the lifeblood of the organisation and are committed to serving the community by delivering event first aid, emergency response, and first aid trainin g- contributing 260,000 hours to NSW communities every year.

Hawkesbury’s own Alexander Crass is 89 years old, and the oldest St John NSW volunteer with no plans to stop any time soon.

“I’ve been a volunteer since I left the Navy in 1959 and I was in the Bushfire Brigade and the Railway First Aid Corp, an adjunct to our service in the Railway,” Mr Crass said.

“I was the president of the rotary subbranch for a number of years.

“I was a member of the Heritage Railway.”

He was approached by a friend who was superintendent of St John who asked Mr Crass to get involved.

About 16 years ago, his friend approached him again asking him about the status of his first aid certificate.

“The next thing I knew, I was a member of the St John’s Ambulance,” Mr Crass said.

“I’ve been quite heavily involved.

“Age doesn’t come into it as far as I am concerned.

“It’s just a chronological number.

“Every week, we have a meeting and we do training - CPR, oxygen, bandaging…”

Mr Crass said St John NSW was a bit more advanced than the normal first aid.

“We particularly concentrate on CPR, the defibrillator and oxygen,” Mr Crass said.

“We had an episode recently with an elderly lady with a heart attack.

“The two people on duty that day are credited with saving her life.”

His training has come in handy over the years.

“I had a very good instructor in my early Navy days who taught me the value of dark humour as a way of maintaining your mental stability,” Mr Crass said.

“I’ve enjoyed my time with St John’s.

“We have counsellors and chaplains. They are available. I’ve spoken to a couple of people over the years about things.

“As you can imagine, trains don’t go too well with people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“We have the protocols of St John’s to abide by to help us and keep us on the straight and narrow.

“We now have three vehicles in the Hawkesbury, which means we can attend three venues at once.

“It’s a wonderful organisation.

“My wife and I have long been involved with the Kurrajong Nursing Home.

“There are so many fields of endeavour for volunteers.

“St John is, in my view, one of the most important.

“I have had incidents that happened in front of me and I’ve been able to help.

“Some of them that have given me grey hair.

“It’s not just a fly by night sort of thing, St John’s has been around for quite a lot of years.Mr Crass said a gentleman started first aid teaching at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College back in the 1890s.

“He took a team of first raiders to the Western Desert in WWI and they performed first aid on the battlefield, Mr Crass said.

“He is responsible for the start of the St John’s field of endeavour in the Hawkesbury.

“We have a a photo of him on the wall in the hall.

“St John in the Hawkesbury has a long and proud history.

“One of our members, Ron Hatfield is a wonderful man, a wonderful first aider who has assisted a lot of people.

“Another man - a Vietnam vet was a wonderful man who put the safety and support of people before themselves.

“I get annoyed with how some people are hailed as heroes and then the ordinary people who go about doing wonderful things receive no accolades whatsoever.

“They never get so much as a thank you.

“All volunteers of all colours, shapes and sizes need to be thanked for their work.

“When I was president of the subbranch, anybody who did anything - fundraising, helping assist at morning teas, I always ensured that they got a letter of thanks.

I’ve been asked, “Isn’t it time you stopped, watched TV and got a beer in your hand?”

“I always say I don’t need the idiot box.

“I was awarded a life time membership of the Railway First Aid Corp.

“From my hard life as a kid, I’ve always tried to help people because I know how it feels when people help you.

“When he and his wife were raising their children, Alexander was well known on the street where they lived.

“It was well known that I had a very large first aid box.

“Life is hard, and particularly so today for young people.

“My younger brother’s motto was “If I can help somebody today I’ve had a great day.”

“He was 5ft5 and had a pretty tough life.

“He was not very well at all.

“He was an idol to look up to.

“I have a wonderful wife who does wonderful things, including making lemon meringue pie.

“She knows my weaknkesses, like hot apple pie with cream, icecream and custard.

“I won the lottery when I married my wife.

“She gave me four wonderful children, two boys and two girls.”

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