ABOUT 90 people from all over the south-west will help Wayne Wallrodt celebrate his 70th birthday at the Collie trotting track on Saturday.
The sports fanatic defied doctors’ forecasts to reach the biblical “three-score years and ten” on Tuesday. They told his parents he was unlikely to live beyond 19 or 20, said his sister, Jenny Wilson.
Oxygen deprivation at birth badly damaged Wayne’s nervous system, she said. His brain was not affected but his motor skills, hence speech and movement, were severely impaired.
Wayne is a member of the horse-mad Wallrodt family. Horses have been part of his family's life for generations.
One grandfather, Albert Littlefair, owned and trained Fair Antique, which won the South West Derby, at Bridgetown in 1936. His parents, Leo and Flo Wallrodt, of Bunbury, owned trotters and Leo raced his horses in Collie each Friday night.
Leo’s greatest moment on the trotting circuit was when his 100 to one chance, Cawarra, which he had bred, owned, trained and drove, beat the mighty Mount Eden in the 1970 WA Derby.
Jenny said the family tradition is carried on by brothers Grahame, who is a trainer, and Tony, who also has a horse.
Grahame and Vanessa Wilson’s children, Leo and Rachael, were also skilled trotting drivers. Rachael won Bridgetown’s leading driver award during her first season of races.
Jenny photographs the Collie trotting race finishes and Narrogin races, Bunbury, Busselton and Bridgetown.
She and her husband, Brian, run Pegasus Videos and tape Albany and Mt Barker meetings as well as joining the fly-in, fly-out workforce to cover race meetings in Port Hedland and Newman.
Their travels would not be possible without the help of Brian’s brother, John, who lives next door and cares for Wayne, while Brian and Jenny are away.
Apart from his nine years of rehabilitation at the Lady Lawley Centre in Mosman Park, Wayne lived with and was cared for by his mother, Flo, until her final illness.
“Mum wanted him to learn to talk, walk, read and write,” Jenny said.
“When she got him home, she looked after him until she got sick.”
Twelve years ago he moved into a granny flat behind Jenny and Brian’s home in Ogden Street, Collie.
His achievement in reaching his 70th birthday is probably a tribute to his family’s love and care as well as his own determination. He reckons he intends living until he is 90.
He was off to the doctor after talking to the Collie Mail, to have his banged and painful right knee examined. The family wanted to ensure he would be mobile for his party at the weekend.
Wayne disability means he suffers falls and his “good knee” has been taking a battering, Jenny said.
Their mother always said Wayne was a beautiful baby, with pitch black hair.
He was apparently born dead but the doctors gave him an injection which revived him.
Initially nobody knew anything was wrong with the infant. “Then it was noticed that he was dead still, he was not moving and rolling around like the other babies”, Jenny said.
“His mind was perfect.”
Wayne was sent to the Lady Lawley Centre, as his family wanted him to be as well equipped as possible for as rich a life as possible.
He still had two friends from those long-ago days at Mosman Park.
In Perth, his aunts, Lou and Freda, who both lived in Bassendean, took him into their homes for weekends. He often returned to his family in Bunbury during the holidays.
Wayne learned to walk with the aid of calipers, which he wore for 15 years.
He loves reading about sport and is a full bottle on trotting and the gallops, as well as being one of the West Coast Eagles’ keenest fans. He maintains meticulous sporting records.
Wayne is also a keen punter and said his favourite course is Busselton, where everybody knows him and says “hello”. It also has a lovely picnic atmosphere, which he enjoys.
Many bookmakers give him better than usual odds when he has a flutter and he is an astute judge of when a horse is likely to have a win.
The family’s keen interest in horses has enabled Wayne to attend trotting meetings all over the southern half of the state.