Baking friendship with Japanese
CHILDREN at a kindergarten in Japan will soon receive a delicious package sent from Ballina in the name of "friendship".
World War II veteran Ron Cross, aged 90, has been sending home-made biscuits and cakes to a kindergarten on the island of Noko for about five years.
But it wasn't his war service that inspired Mr Cross, who was a Rat of Tobruk and also served on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, to send the baked treats.
Mr Cross's son, Tim, is a university lecturer in Japan.
Mr Cross and his late wife, Joyce (who passed away in 1998), have been visiting Associate Professor Cross since the 1990s.
While there, Mr Cross would take his grandson, Yogi, to kindergarten and stay and give the staff a hand, particularly on open days and sports days. He was often invited to have lunch with the children.
"I became grandfather to 40 children," he said.
"In the end, the kids wouldn't leave (at the close of the day) until they said goodbye."
He said the welcome he and Joyce received when they first visited was "tremendous".
"And when I went back on my own, it was a welcome-and-a- half," he said.
Five years ago, Mr Cross had a medical problem and wasn't able to make the trip to Japan, so he baked at home in Ballina and sent the treats to the kids.
He has been doing it every year since.
Last year he returned to Japan, but sent a parcel to the kindergarten before he left.
And last week, he again made the trip, with the bickies in the mail.
He baked 210 fruit and nut biscuits this time around.
Mr Cross said he doesn't particularly enjoy cooking, but he is pretty handy in the kitchen.
"As a kid, we had to watch our mother cook as she believed that everyone should be able to cook for themselves," he said.
The kindergarten children are the beneficiaries of that life lesson.