BEFORE she was a zoology tutor at Monash University and a parasitologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Patricia Plunket was a 20-something in Chicago and in love with art.
She had a degree from the University of Sydney in two branches of science when she enrolled in the Chicago Art Institute to learn how to draw.
As she turned 90 on Saturday, the memories of her formative years flowed.
"That was a lovely part of my life," she says.
She found herself in Chicago as World War II ravaged Europe. She had a room on the
south side of the city near a beach where no one swam.
Like any good Australian, she jumped into the water. The fisherman who found her sitting on a rocky reef after she was caught by an icy current lectured her all the way back to the mainland.
She never swam in the lake again, but in winter she would go ice skating at the local rink.
"I had a stunning outfit. Leopard-skin shorts, white tight-fit jumper, fairly long hair that flew around and pure white skates. That was one of the highlights of my life."
She spent six years in the Windy City and fell in love but never got married.
"I was interested in someone but the family were very wealthy.
"He was quite interested in getting married and I was quite interested but his family didn't like the idea."
Then there was Dieter, the Dane, whom she loved but who met another woman on a train and fell in love.
"He absolutely fell for her and he came back and he said, 'Look, I've found someone, exactly what I want.'
"And I said, 'I'm terribly glad, Dieter'."
Just before she left Chicago, she was horse riding in a park when a nearby motorbike revved and scared
her horse, which threw her, then kicked her twice in the head. "The next thing I remember was lying in the park with the police, ambulance and a lot of people looking and I thought, 'Oh that's it, I'm finished.' "
She made a full recovery but could never shake the migraines that followed.
When she got back to Australia, she was offered a parasitology job at the Royal Melbourne Hospital before taking a part-time job at Monash University.
"I was going to do medicine and was accepted. My mother rather talked me out of that. She said, 'You get terrible headaches - I don't think it's such a good idea.' But it's nice to know they would've let me in."
She's lived in Mount Waverley for the past 30 years since deciding that Melbourne suited her. In her spare time, she continues to use the art skills she learned in Chicago to capture her surroundings.
"I had a lovely life, terrific, a great variety and lots of interest."