A picture to treasure . . . Clockwise from left: Biddy Potangaroa, Tysha Eketone, Eterina Eketone, June Haeata and Aria. PHOTO/KIRI RIWAI-COUCH

Five generations hit dance floor for Biddy’s birthday

Ailsa Potangaroa’s 90th birthday on Saturday was celebrated with her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren . . . and great-great-grandchildren.

CAL ROBERTS
cal.roberts@age.co.nz

Ailsa Potangaroa celebrated her 90th birthday on Saturday by getting out on the dance floor with her children. . . and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
And her great-great-grandchildren.

“I don’t think there’s many that can claim they have five generations still hopping around a bit,” she said.

“I managed to get five generations of the family up on the floor dancing.”

Biddy Potangaroa dancing with her eldest great-great-granddaughter, Charli. PHOTO/KIRI RIWAI-COUCH

More than 120 people, including about 40 mokopuna from across the country and overseas – the youngest being seven months old – gathered in Masterton for the celebration.

Mrs Potangaroa is better known as ‘Biddy’, a nickname given to her by her half-sister.

“When she saw me for the first time as a baby she said, ‘Oh mum, you’ve got a sweet little biddykins here’.”

The name stuck.

Born and raised in Wairarapa, she attended school in Lansdowne before going to Wairarapa College.

When she left school, Biddy found work trapping rabbits and selling furs.

She got married and had her first child, Ann, as a teenager in 1945.

Biddy said some of her grandchildren took after her, marrying young and having children shortly after.

“In other words, we didn’t let the grass grow under our feet.”

Biddy said the birthday guest list kept growing.

It included Biddy’s three children, Ann, June, and Ngaire, her eight grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and 12 great-great-grandchildren.

Ann Wellington said some were family, “but some guests are children of mum’s friends that have passed on”.

“They’ve become friends too, so to speak.”

Biddy said this would be the largest family gathering she had been to.

“It’s the first time that we’ve have had a big one like this.”

One of Biddy’s granddaughters lives in Los Angeles and was tasked with choreographing a line dance to ‘Pokarekare Ana’ for the party.

Ann said the dance was easy enough to learn, but worried the song was a bit too boring.

“It’s a bit slow.”

Biddy disagreed. “When you try and think, what’s the next step? – oops, too slow, I’ve missed that one.”

The sprightly great-great-grandmother said she stayed sharp by being active.

She used to play croquet for about 25 years, and enjoys indoor bowls.

Keen to keep going, she now turns her hand to petanque. Mrs Wellington called her mother a natural.

Biddy said getting old was a choice.

“I’ve decided I’m not going to get old. If you decide that ‘I’m 70 now and I’ve got rheumatics here, arthritis there, my back hurts and my feet hurt, oh, I’m old’ – you are old.”

Mrs Wellington laughed and chimed in, “we’re catching up”.

Biddy had simple, sage advice to share about ageing gracefully.

“Forget about it, get on with it. Life’s for living.”