THE discipline Lillian "Robyn" Purtell Gallegos learnt during her time in the air force continues to shape her life, many decades on.
This includes surviving cancer and her husband's death nearly 40 years ago.
"It just made you a better person," she said.
"It regulated your life a lot better, and made you realise what other people were going through.
"I put it all down to that, how I've lived my life.
"You learnt to be good, help other people and do what you could."
Mrs Purtell Gallegos, who turned 92 on March 16, has lived in her Warilla home for the past 53 years.
She is a sixth-generation Australian.
While living in Sydney, she joined the Royal Australian Air Force and spent about three years in the service, mainly based in Townsville, before leaving at Christmas, 1945.
"It was very strict and regulated," she said.
"I didn't know what it was going to be.
"[I thought] all the men were going away fighting, [so] we could do something to relieve the men."
She married Dick Gallegos, a member of the Army's 9th division, after World War II.
The pair met at a golf club before the war and remained in contact.
They settled in Gerringong and had four children: Rod, Jacqueline, Robyn and Sue, before moving to Warilla 53 years ago.
"It was all bush when we first came up here," she said.
"We didn't have a road then ... we had to go to Albion Park to pay the rates.
"When we first shifted up here it was good because it was all ex-servicemen and their wives.
"We all mixed together; it was a very happy time; hundreds of children.
"It's all changed now. Only four of us are left in this street. The rest have moved away or died.
"It's very sad; all my friends are gone," she said.
"Shellharbour, there was nothing then, only a few shops.
"I love it, but it's grown too quickly."
Her husband died in 1974, aged 60, from a brain tumour.
Mrs Purtell Gallegos worked at CRM Lysaghts' staff cafeteria until the age of 60.
About five years ago, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which she has since beaten.
She has eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Relatives, such as daughter Robyn, are amazed by her sharp memory.
"She has always been a strong woman; witty, wise, a fantastic mother and is well known for her texting on her mobile," she said.
Mrs Purtell Gallegos still drives and enjoys spending time with family, gardening, crocheting and going to church when possible.
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