News Story

WWII Veteran and Former Church Leader Celebrates 100th Birthday

Len Hurley's 100th birthday celebration honors a life well-lived

Amidst the throes of a pandemic, and celebrations via Zoom, Len Hurley recently celebrated his 100th birthday and a lifetime of service--to his family, country, and fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Victoria’s current lockdown restrictions meant no visits from family or friends. However, staff at Len’s Bentleigh East nursing home made sure it was a special day, decorating the hall with balloons and making a garden-themed birthday cake to share with fellow residents.


Len’s family joined in the celebrations via Zoom.  Letters from the Queen and Prime Minister were also presented to the centenarian.

When asked about the secret to his longevity, Len says living the health standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and staying active have been key.

“Live well, don’t drink, don’t smoke and learn to love work,” says Len.

Leonard Hurley was born in Murtoa, Victoria. He grew up on his family’s farm, where he worked hard and got up to plenty of mischief with his twin brother, Ken, and his younger brother Russell.

When WWII broke out, Len and Ken were eager to serve and enlisted early. Len served in the 9th Division Cavalry (tanks) from 1938 to 1948, fighting in Egypt, El Alamein, Syria, and Borneo.

A member of the Church of England at the time, one of Len’s most unforgettable experiences in the Middle East was taking two days’ leave in Jerusalem.

His experiences at war quickly taught him the fragility and value of life. During one campaign, Len’s commander ordered him to fire on an Italian gunner. Len pressed the wrong button, bringing the tank to a stop. The men on the tank vacated and were eventually replaced by another group.  Soon after, the Italian gunner hit the tank with a shell, killing everyone inside.

“It was a pretty nasty experience,” remembers Len. “I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t pressed that button.”

Grateful to have survived war in the Middle East, Len returned home and married the love of his life, May, in 1944.

Len and May's wedding day
Len and May's wedding day© 2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

“[May] used to work in a shop in Murtoa, close to where we lived,” says Len. “I always said to myself I’d marry her. Married life was beautiful.”

They had one daughter Rhonda in 1951 who tragically passed away as a young adult, leaving behind a daughter, Chantelle. Chantelle now lives in Len and May’s house with her partner and two children, Ky and Remi. She says her grandfather’s life has been one of service.

“He was always out doing things for other people,” says Chantelle. “I’m sure he’s painted almost everyone’s house at one time or another. He liked to work hard.”

Shortly after Rhonda passed away, Len and May found hope in the message brought to their door by missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It’s made a big difference in our lives,” Len says. “I’ve missed going to Sunday meetings this year, but I listen to the recorded [Zoom] meetings every week.”

One of his most treasured experiences in the Church was serving as bishop of the Moorabbin ward (congregation) for three and a half years.

“It was a choice experience to be considered worthy to serve as a bishop,” says Len.

Although he has experienced his share of loss, including his fellow veterans, brothers, wife, and daughter, Len continues to find joy in his relationships with his granddaughter and two great-grandchildren, friends, and church family.

He also stays active and enjoys his hobbies, which include cooking, gardening, keeping up with the footy (Australian Rules Football), writing in his journal every day, and reading.

“I feel very blessed to have had the life I’ve had,” reflects Len. “I enjoy life, good friends, keeping up with things as much as I can. Life’s worth living.”

Len in the ANZAC Parade 2018
Len in the ANZAC Parade 2018© 2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.


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