It may not have been the 100th birthday celebration that Evelyn Page resthome resident Veda Young was expecting, but that didn’t stop it from being very a special day, says her daughter Judy Marshall.
“There were balloons and bunting, there was a table with three chocolate cakes, management gave her a big bunch of flowers and Honey, the activities coordinator, made a collage of photos for her,” says Judy, who lives in an apartment at Evelyn Page as well.
“One of the residents plays the piano so she played that as Mum walked in and we all sang happy birthday.
“I couldn’t have done it better if I’d been organising it myself.”
Judy is quick to point out that she was outside the window singing to her mum with a microphone because, even though they live in the same village, lockdown restrictions have meant care centre residents haven’t been allowed visitors for weeks.
It also meant Veda had to speak to the rest of the family including daughter Marlene via Zoom, since lockdown meant they had to cancel their plans to visit from Australia.
While a little overwhelmed with the fuss being made, Veda showed her trademark sense of humour when it came to the standard questions being asked of a newly-turned centenarian.
First came ‘how does it feel to be 100?’ to which Veda quipped: “I haven’t been there long!”
That prompted a big laugh from everyone. The next question was ‘what’s the secret?’
Again, Veda didn’t miss a trick, replying: “Oh, that would be telling!” which prompted another big laugh.
Then, with a sincere note, she said: “It’s been such a surprise – to the family, and to all of you [the staff], thank you!”
Judy says the excitement carried on for Veda for a couple of days after the official celebration on Sunday, which also, fittingly, coincided with Mother’s Day.
She had received cards from the Queen, Governor General, National MP for Northland Mark Mitchell and Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff, and was expecting one from the Minister for Seniors, Tracey Martin.
Judy says her mum is made of strong stuff and has been blessed with great health. A rare hospital visit a few years ago confounded the medical staff as there was no record of her in the system whatsoever.
“She didn’t even have a number! Her motto was ‘it’s a great life if you don’t weaken’, she’s incredible!” says Judy.
Born on 10 May 1920, Veda grew up in Broadwood in the Hokianga region of Northland where her parents owned a small dairy farm and life was pretty idyllic, riding her horse, learning the piano and going to school.
However, fortunes turned when she was 14 after her mother died. Veda left school to help her father by keeping house, washing, cooking and helping to milk the cows.
She later trained as a nurse aid at Lewisham Hospital in Wellington and worked as a nanny before marrying Des in 1940.
After Des returned from serving in WW2 where he had been taken prisoner by the Germans, the couple had three daughters and raised them on a farm in Broadwood.
They moved to Auckland in 1954 but Des died five years later having suffered several strokes and Veda was left a widow at just 39.
She lived in the same house in Blockhouse Bay for 61 years before moving into a resthome near Judy’s house in 2015.
Judy fondly remembers her mother would get a loan of a caravan and take her and her sisters to Orewa for holidays when they were teenagers and it was those memories that influenced the decision to move into Evelyn Page.
“We thought it would be nice because it’s still within Auckland, my partner Gary likes the ocean, and it’s closer to my other relations further north.
“It occurred to me that Mum could come too and she said yes, so that was that!
“Ryman couldn’t have done better, they’re just marvellous. It’s the best move we could have made.”
Nevertheless, Judy said the lockdown period had been hard on both of them and she was excited to finally be able to visit her mum in person in the same room once the country had moved to Level 2.
“Being mum she tries to be strong and if I can phone her twice a day and make her feel good or I can make her laugh I feel better, but last night she’d just about had enough.
“Tomorrow, being able to make contact will make the world of difference to her, and to me!”
They follow different faiths, have had very different careers and there is 15 years in age between them.