Madeline Anderson is turning 111. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND
The oldest living person in New Zealand is set to turn 111 in Masterton on Friday.
Madeline Anderson says she is always asked what the secret is to her long and healthy life.
And the answer she tends to give is that she “prays lots”, continues to eat bikkies, and surrounds herself with a “harmonious atmosphere”.
Last Friday, she read her 12th birthday card from the Queen, and her first card from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
There was a sigh of relief as she read out the correct birthday date on the card, May 4 – other years “they had got it wrong”.
Madeline was born Madeline McKenzie Orlowski in Dunedin in 1907.
She was the eldest of four daughters born to John Andrew Orlowski and his Scottish wife Jane [nee Robinson], and is the last surviving of the sisters, who remained close throughout their lives.
She is half-Polish – the granddaughter of some of the earliest Polish settlers in New Zealand.
Her grandparents Franciszka and August Orlowski stepped off the ‘Palmerston’ in Port Chalmers in December 1872 with their baby, Mary.
Their two-year-old, Franz, died on the voyage.
Franciszka and August settled in Waihola and had nine more children including Madeline’s father, John Andrew.
In an interview with Polish History New Zealand, Madeline’s daughter Heather List, who also lives in Masterton, recounted her mother’s earliest memory.
“Mum was standing on the veranda and her mother was nursing the baby inside and wanted mum to take a message to her grandmother,” Heather told Polish History New Zealand.
“Mum didn’t go, and her mother called out through the open window, ‘Why didn’t you go with that message?’ and mum said, ‘Because I didn’t want to get wind like baby.’
“It was a windy day.”
Madeline said at this time she was two years and three months old.
Madeline and her younger sister Rayena started school in Clinton in February 1914.
“We were too young to be seriously affected by the shadow of World War I,” she said.
Madeline finished her Standard Six at St Clair School in Dunedin, and from 1922 to 1925 attended Archerfield School for girls.
There, she learned first aid, nursing, history of art, current events and swimming.
She finished her schooling at Brown’s Secretarial College.
In 1941, Madeline married Henry [Harry] Anderson, and gave birth to her first child Brian in 1943.
Heather was two years old and Brian was five when the family moved to Upper Hutt in 1947.
Brian was killed in a bicycle accident, aged seven, on the road outside the family home.
After Brian’s death, Madeline and Harry fostered four-year-old Graeme Wayne O’Connor.
According to Polish History New Zealand, Graeme’s mother never allowed him to be adopted but he was very much a member of the family.
He died at the age of 20, when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car.
Madeline lived in Upper Hutt until July last year when she moved to Masterton.
She now lives with her daughter Heather and son-in-law Rob.
She said she wished to celebrate her birthday humbly with her family.