They shared a strong bond forged across very different generations but one of Ballarat's most heartwarming friendships has ended with the death of Tom Rush.
The 97-year-old World War II veteran died on Friday leaving behind a large web of family and friends - and one very special young friend who is heartbroken.
Oscar Kosloff, 8, met Mr Rush on Anzac Day 2016 when he attended the Ballarat Anzac Day Service with his family. What they didn't know that day was their chance meeting would spark a relationship that continued and grew over the next three years.
On that day the pair shook hands at a bus stop after a speaker at the service urged those in the crowd to shake the hand of a soldier. Oscar, then aged four, made a beeline for Mr Rush. Their handshake left a lasting impression and the two promised to meet at the same bus station at the Ballarat cenotaph on Anzac Day the next year.
But Oscar could not stop thinking about his friend Tom the soldier and wanted him to attend his birthday party so mum Kelly put out a message on social media hoping to find the elderly serviceman.
Mr Rush was enlisted in the Australia Army in 1941 and served until 1945. He worked as a trained typist and in the motor and water transportation section of the army.
"Oscar just kept going on about it and was fixated on it. He really wanted him to come to his birthday party in May, not long after Anzac Day. I said I didn't know the man so I put it on Facebook and it got shared and we found him," Ms Kosloff said.
She was inundated with people who knew Mr Rush and the pair were reunited within days. Coincidentally, Mr Rush lived only 300m from the family. A strong bond quickly formed.
"We'd go and visit him at his nursing home and chat to him on the phone ... he was an adorable man who we are very grateful to have met," Ms Kosloff said.
"Oscar would often talk to him about his medals, mainly closer to Anzac Day, or he would be telling us about his children, grand children and great grandchildren who shared the names of our children.
"He always put that link together and would have a good old chat. He loved sports so would talk about the kids' sport, football, cricket, what was on TV."
The family offered to pick Mr Rush up to take him to this year's Anzac Day commemorations if he wanted to.
"He said I will always do it as long as I live and for Oscar," he said.
The Courier followed as their friendship blossomed.
"It was really lovely. Tom said he always used to go to Wendouree Village on a Friday and people would stop him and ask how is Oscar, and we'll be shopping in the supermarket and people would ask Oscar how is Tom. It was amazing how many people were really touched by their story," Ms Kosloff said.
The family will attend Mr Rush's funeral at St Augustine's Church in Creswick at 2pm on Thursday.
"Oscar is pretty devastated. His son rang me the other day to tell us the news. He said he had just got worn out in the last few weeks. We are trying to explain to the kids that reach that great age, people get worn out."
Mr Rush is survived by sons Kevin, Terry and Peter and their partners, nine grandchildren and great grandfather of 11.
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