A holocaust survivor who retired to work as “The Lollypop Man” at Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School, North Ryde has again retired (for the last time) after 14 years of service and dedication to the school.
Mr Charles Bertinetti spent World War Two in a German work camp at Kirschlegen after being forced to leave a technical school because his mother was Jewish.
He has been farewelled from the school to move into assisted living into a retirement village where his wife Ilse Maria is in the nursing home. He had managed a garage at North Ryde for many years – until his first retirement at age 79.
After eight weeks in hospital he now uses a walker but his daily routine before was very different.
He saw the children safely back and forth across busy (and often congested) Cox’s Road in the morning and afternoon and would conclude his day by driving to his wife’s nursing home to sit with her.
“Now I am only 5 minutes walk from her,” he said.
As a Crossing Guard, Charles (as he is called by the teachers, children and their parents) said he was mentally and physically occupied.
“… and not one day sick,” added Charles.
“I had a mind to go until I was 95… I’m not driving any more, it was hard to give everything up especially my car,”
“It was a good job because it gave me something to do,” he said.
In her farewell to Charles, Principal Jo Fox said the students adored him.
“There’s nothing greater than looking after children and keeping them safe, and you did that with 100 per cent dedication,” said Mrs Fox.
She said Charles was an inspiration to the school because he was very devoted to the children and had a polite manner.
Each class made Charles a farewell card and the children presented him with a glass trophy for service and a super-sized lollypop.
Mrs Fox reminded the school assembly Charles would dress as Santa Claus each week before Christmas holidays.
His son Ralph said Charles was put into a forced labour camp in Germany building a railroad to convey V1 and V2 rockets – fast travelling projectiles carrying high explosives – to bomb Britain.
During his time there he was buried in the cellar of the building for over a day when the Allies bombed it. While he survived his colleagues trapped with him did not. Charles still suffers from claustrophobia.
He managed to get his wife Ilse Maria a job as a secretary in the German work camp so they could at least be together.
She had cycled there after leaving a train during an evacuation from a post office where she worked because the U.S. forces were approaching. She was not of Jewish background or faith so worked as a free citizen.
Charles had given her a pushbike just before he was interned telling her to always have the bike with her.
She took her bike on the evacuation train but decided to leave the train and cycle to his camp to see if she could find him.
Her colleagues stayed behind on the train. The train was bombed and Ilse Maria’s colleagues were all killed.
Charles and Ilse Maria arrived in Australia in August 1951 and Charles celebrates that time every year.
“Dad always says we came as three and now we are 15,” said Ralph.