The travel bug bit Yvonne and Eric McKee early in life. They’ve had 19 trips overseas and spent two years in a caravan travelling throughout Australia. Now living in Kanwal, they’ve never had a better place to come home to.
While growing up in Maroubra, Sydney, Eric formed a very strong bond with his five siblings. They were free to roam the streets and he and his older brother got themselves into some fairly serious mischief every now and then.
After finishing school and throughout life, Eric has never turned down an opportunity and always put his mind to whatever job came along. Pastry chef, factory worker, storeman, delivery man, he’s done it all and much more. Just a few years before retiring Yvonne and Eric tried their hand at owning a Licensed Post Office in Georges Hall.
Yvonne was born in Griffith and spent some time in Sydney before moving to Broken Hill with her father to be mostly raised by her aunty. When her father remarried and called Sydney home again she returned.
It was in Sydney that Yvonne and Eric met. Yvonne was dating Eric’s brother at the time.
“I asked my brother how serious things were between them and when he said things were not, I stepped in,” says Eric. “We married two years later, in 1965.”
Yvonne and Eric loved travelling when they could and that was often. They didn’t wait until they retired.
“In 1981, we bought a van and travelled Australia for two years,” says Eric. “We headed north to Cairns first because it was winter and it was warm up there, and then we just went visiting all of Australia’s states and territories.”
“Our overseas trips took us to China, Japan, Europe, Norway, England, New Zealand and Fiji. Canada and the USA are at the top of our favourites list. We’ve probably gone to 30 or more USA states. We’re attracted by the desert and love Arizona, Utah, New Mexico. We enjoy the East Coast too, places like Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and up the coast to the New England area.”
Yvonne and Eric started their married lives in Marrickville, but also lived in Croydon Park and Lidcombe. Later, when Yvonne’s stepmother died, they moved to the Central Coast to look after her father.
“We moved in with Dad, who was living in Blue Haven, but soon realised we needed a bigger home for the three of us and found exactly what we wanted in Lake Haven,” says Yvonne. “Dad moved with us.”
“We’d been looking for homes and were out at the shops buying some chicken for dinner when we received a call from a real estate agent. He asked if we wanted to attend the auction of a house we’d inspected – the auction was happening soon. We said yes and ended up buying it. We still laugh about it as the day we went out for chicken and bought a house.”
The South Sydney Rabbitos NRL team has been a big part of Yvonne and Eric’s life too. Eric is a life member of the club, having started supporting them when he was just 10 years old. Yvonne and Eric can be found in the stadium cheering their team to victory during the footy season.
Eric has a long-held interest in table tennis and has been involved in the sport since 1969. First as a hobby and for the social side of things, and later as a competition player. A few years after moving to the coast, in 1998 Eric took on the role of President of the Central Coast Table Tennis Association, and during his reign the membership grew from 40 to 140 players. Eric retired as president in 2001 but continues to be involved. COVID may have disrupted the 2020 competition, but he still plays socially most Tuesday nights at Noraville.
“I’m not as good with the table tennis bat as I used to be,” says Eric, “but I don’t mind a game.”
In early 2020, and still living in their large Lake Haven home, the upkeep of the house and garden was starting to weigh heavily on them. “We also realised, if something was to happen to one of us, it was better that we’d already moved and were living where we’d have the support and friendships we’d need,” says Eric.
“I saw that Oak Tree Kanwal had a display at the local shopping centre and that they had an open day coming up, so we decided to go along. When we did, it just clicked with us.”
“We had looked at other villages,” says Yvonne, “we’d done the rounds previously with Eric’s aunt and uncle, and we were very impressed with Oak Tree. Financially they were good value, and everything they had suited us.”
“But we did some more groundwork and looked at even more villages across the Central Coast. We even considered a three-bedroom home at one stage but ruled that out because we decided what we really wanted was the feeling of community that Oak Tree would give us.”
“We’re still unpacking, having only moved in a few weeks ago, but we have made some lovely friends already. We can see it’s going to be a fun place to live.”
“We now have the best place we could possibly have to come home to.”