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The three centenarians

March 15, 2019 March 2019 No Comments

At the last census there were 558 centenarians in New Zealand.   What is amazing that three of them live right here in Martinborough, at Wharekaka.   I decided to ask each to tell me the most exciting thing that had happened in their long lives.

Gladys Stephen, the oldest resident, is 103.  When she was born the First World War was still raging and New Zealand had barely 1 million people.    Age has taken its toll on her memory so when I asked my question I got a rather unexpected answer.  She looked at me sharply and said, “We didn’t talk about that sort of thing in those days.” 

For Mina Imeson the big thrill was when she sold her first paintings.  “I didn’t know I had it in me” she says of her surprise at discovering her artistic abilities late in life.   In her room there’s a large oil painting she did not long before she lost her sight and had to give up art.   It shows the schoolhouse where Captain Cook was a pupil back in Yorkshire where Mina was also brought up. 

Like many of his generation Dennis Maugham had more adrenaline-inducing experiences than a person might want, courtesy of World War II.    On the plus side his Royal Navy service provided great camaraderie, plenty of adventure and travel all over the world.  Excitement of the least desirable kind arrived when his command, motor gun boat X325, was sunk off the French coast in 1941 with the loss of 17 of the 27 men on board.

The introduction of hospital level care at Wharekaka in 2017 has made it possible for these older people to stay in Martinborough near their families rather than moving into care elsewhere.    “This is exactly what we hoped would happen when we made the big decision to upgrade” says Joy Cooper, Chair of the Wharekaka Trust.   “ Perhaps the excellent care we provide will enable more residents to qualify for that special letter from the Queen.”


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