John of all trades

John Warren has lived quite the life and now puts his time into passion projects. (Damjan Janevski) 276198_04

Helena Abdou

John Warren is a curious man, dabbling in a number of pastimes over the years. He speaks with Helena Abdou about his various outlets have helped him overcome a battle with depression.

John Warren was only young when he lost his father to suicide. Years later, his brother took his own life after a battle with schizophrenia. Not long after, John’s sister followed.

He lost three family members to suicide and was scared he would fall victim to the unrelenting grasp of depression.

“Because of the depression that I went through, that sort of made it a bit tougher because I thought oh maybe it’s my time to kick it too.

“Maybe I was just a little bit stronger and lucky to pull myself out of it.”

Born in Albert Park, and raised in Broadmeadows, John is one of five children.

He later moved to Jacana, where he met his wife Carol. The pair have been married for 50-odd years.

He has two sons, Paul and Adam, who he says are his whole world.

“I love my boys and I’m proud of the men that they are. They’ve done really well for themselves.”

Sadly, John didn’t have the same loving relationship with his father.

“In those days, men were pretty hard on kids … I suppose I’ve got bad memories as far as my dad goes,” John says.

“I think that happened right up to the age of 15 and I looked him in the eyes one day and I go, well, you’re not going to break me anymore, he realised what he was doing. And I thought how stupid is this. I will never do this to my kids in the future, it was a lesson that I learned.”

John wasn’t very fond of school and left at the age of 15.

“I didn’t have it in me to do school but I was always very good with my hands. On the exact same day I left school, my mum made me get a job at the grocery shop, where I packed shelves for about two years.

“And then I knew a minister where I used to go to a church and he said to me, ‘I can get you an apprenticeship as a wood machinist’, which is a person who deals with operating machines and builds wardrobes, cabinets and that sort of stuff. So I did that for five years as an apprentice.”

He went on to work at Hillcrest Secondary College in Broadmeadows as a wood machinist for 17 years before injuring his back.

“I had a back injury and I collapsed the three discs in my lower back. That put me out of work for the rest of my life actually,” he says.

It was then that John fell into depression, but he didn’t let that stop him.

“I figured I need to try and do something with my life instead of just sitting around doing nothing. So I went back to school for four years and I learned how to do computers and stuff like that.”

John describes himself as a curious type of man, having dabbled in a number of different activities over his lifetime.

“I went to church for about five or six years, tried a few different churches to see what the difference was. Enjoyed partying and swimming a fair bit. I did a bit of horse riding and I got into obedience work for about five years with my German shepherd and won a few prizes.”

“It was all just an outlet.

“Carol turned to me and said, ‘what are you going to do next?’ And I said ‘I’m going to buy a Harley’, and so I did.”

After his back injury, John sold his bike and turned towards passion projects as a way to keep himself occupied.

“I got into playing with old cars and building old cars and I probably got about seven old cars at home.”

His latest project that drew the attention of his neighbourhood and strangers was his ‘crazy caravan,’ a fully furnished piece of art he built.

“That took me about six months to build and I was hoping to get away with the wife but then she got a bit ill so I’m hoping to sell it.”

The father-of-two has a positive outlook on life and encourages everyone around him to do the same.

“I’m back on top and full of laughter, enjoying the grandkids that I love. It could have gone the other way for me but I’m glad it didn’t,” he said.

“Put a smile on your face and keep pushing through because the next day it becomes better.”