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February 06, 2012

FOR ED AND HELEN, LIFE’S ABOUT BRIDGING OCEANS


David Ellis

THERE's probably nothing too unusual about a bloke deciding that he's going to celebrate his next big milestone birthday by taking his wife on a world cruise.

After all, with the kids grown up and the nest empty, why sit around watching the grass grow?

But what is unusual is that the birthday this bloke will be celebrating as the ship he's chosen cruises towards Sydney later this month, will be his 93RD.

It's a pretty out-of-the-ordinary idea, but then Ed Halluska and his wife Helen are pretty out-of-the-ordinary people, because this won't be their first world cruise, their second, their tenth, nor even their twentieth.

This will be no less than the 24th time they've cruised around the world. And on top of this they've notched up close-on 320 other point-to-point cruises in the Mediterranean, South Pacific, Caribbean, Northern Europe, through the USA's New England, and just about everywhere else a cruise ship can go.

And in doing so, according to Ed's meticulous diaries, they've chalked up a staggering 3,916,656 kilometres during 5000-plus days at sea, after getting bitten by the cruise bug over forty years ago.

The softly-spoken Ed and Helen hail from Pennsylvania, and the only time Ed tends to raise his voice is when he talks about how they "got into cruising."

It goes back to his interest in the game of bridge. With this, and a few short cruises under their belts, Ed took the punt and decided to toss-in his engineering job and become a full time bridge instructor –  winning himself a cosy little role on a cruise ship, and being able to take Helen with him on many of his cruises.

From that first assignment in the late 1960s Ed and Helen decided that teaching bridge and cruising were to become their virtual full-time lives.

That was until one day the company solemnly announced: "Ed, we're going to have to let you go." It is then that the voice deepens in indignation. "They said I was too old. TOO OLD! What, I wanted to know, was wrong with turning 80?

"But they were adamant that 80 was too old, and so Helen and I decided, well blow them, and to just keep on cruising and to make it, and bridge, even more of our lives."

And so they have, and if you press him, between tales of their travels, he'll also talk about how he almost didn't live to make it all possible – because at one time he was a machinist and toolmaker with America's Manhattan Project, the building of the atomic bomb.

"I was sent to a top-secret plant at Los Alamos in New Mexico," he says. "I worked on the actual piston that would detonate the bomb, and even though we were working with uranium all around us our only protective clothing was ordinary overalls, rubber gloves and goggles.

"I was regularly tested for traces of uranium and just before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the doctors told me I'd tested positive to being above the permitted safe level. When I asked what that meant, the doctors shrugged and said they really didn't have a clue, because they weren't even sure in those days what was the safe level before radiation poisoning set in."

Ultimately Ed was medically cleared of any potential harm to his health

Today Ed and Helen are heading here aboard the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth that's due in Sydney on February 28 for a two-day stay, and just a couple of days before coming in through The Heads he and Helen will celebrate his 93rd birthday on board.

And with all this Good Life, how do this remarkable couple, we ask, keep as trim as they are?  "Plenty of walking ashore," Ed says. "And 80 push-ups a day," (which isn't a bad trick at 93.)

"A lot of people think if you go on a Queen Elizabeth world cruise as a passenger and don't come off as cargo, you've not been having fun," he adds. "But while we don't miss any meals, we don't clean the plate either. And we might have soup and dessert one night and a main course the next – and fish six times a week."

Good on you Ed – and happy 93rd !

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PHOTO CAPTIONS:

 

[] Ed and Helen Halluska – next to Queen Victoria in Sydney on a previous world cruise (Photo: David Ellis)

[] Queen Elizabeth in the Panama Canal: Ed's choice for his 93rd birthday and 24th world cruise with Helen. (Photo: Cunard Line)

[] LUXURY: Entry to the lavish Britannia Restaurant on Queen Elizabeth. (Photo: Cunard Line)

 

 

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