Millrace resident Mary Smith celebrated her 100th with fanfare at the centre on Wednesday, June 21, surrounded by friends and family and with some very special messages of congratulations.
Mary was born in Merriwa in 1917, the second eldest of three girls and two boys, but the family was separated when their mother died when Mary was aged seven. She went to live with an aunt, who passed on when Mary was 14, and she then moved in with a cousin.
She attended secretarial school in Sydney, billeted in a boarding house, before joining Boyded Motors (run by her uncle Daniel Clifton) as a secretary until she married William in 1939.
After raising sons Kevin and Howard she undertook clerical work at Blue Mountains District Hospital in the 20 years leading up to her retirement, while also being a handy tennis player.
She drove up to the age of 80, shortly before following son Kevin to Tenterfield in 1999 after the loss of William.
Granddaughter Kim McCarrey – who, as activities officer at Millrace gets ample opportunity to stay in touch with Mrs Smith – said her grandmother is very mentally alert and still difficult to beat at Scrabble, which they play regularly.
At the Scrabble tournament just before achieving her century, Mrs McCarrey came close to topping Mrs Smith with the score at 265 a piece, an unusual outcome in the game.
“She’s a lovely lady,” Mrs McCarrey said.
“Always elegant, and still very interested in clothes and her magazines.”
Mrs McCarrey said her grandmother is still very careful with her appearance, often dressing in her pearls and cardigan, and is very generous. She maintains a stash of chocolates to give away, often to staff at the centre.
Mrs Smith herself was the centre of attention at functions throughout the week surrounding her milestone birthday, with family gatherings on the weekends either side of her birthday Wednesday – catering to the availability of various relatives – plus of course the big day itself.
She also got to catch up – via Skype, mind you – with dear friend Trixie Gardner in Britain as a highlight of the day. Baroness Gardner is a member of the House of Lords, as was her husband the late Kevin Gardner who was Mary’s nephew.
While Mrs Smith certainly doesn’t immerse herself in technology, Mrs McCarrey said she seems to appreciate the advantages it can bring in some instances, such as the ability to stay in touch with those on the other side of the world.
Other dignitaries were keen to add their best wishes to the cavalcade of birthday greetings Mrs Smith received on the day. Deputy prime minister and member for New England Barnaby Joyce sent his congratulations and best wishes on behalf of himself and wife Natalie.
“We hope you have a wonderful day celebrating this very special milestone with family and friends and reflecting on a lifetime of treasured memories,” he said.
A fellow family matriarch Queen Elizabeth sent her congratulations and best wishes, along with a portrait, as did Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, on behalf of himself and wife Lynne.
Arguably dearest to Mrs Smith, however, was a papal blessing delivered by local priest Father Leech.