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Martinborough woman turns 100

By Gerald Ford

There aren’t many people alive today who can remember the return of a soldier from World War I.

One who can, is Gladys Stephen of Martinborough, who turned 100 on Saturday.

She was born Gladys Roy in Dunedin on December 17, 1916, and according to her son Bruce, of Sydney, still remembers taking the train to Christchurch in 19191 to meet her father newly returned from the war – a story he has heard often.

“It find it remarkable can remember that she can remember her father coming home from the war,” Bruce said.

Her memory has faded, but the really long-term stuff seems to be there still.”

Bruce came from Sydney for his mother’s birthday. There was an official party on Friday at Wharekaka Aged Care Facility, where Mrs Stephen lives. She is the first resident of the home to turn 100 years old.

The party was attended by South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier, who congratulated Mrs Stephen on reaching the age of 100.

Children from the nearby Bell Street Early Learning Centre also came along and presented Mrs Stephen with a 100 year birthday card they had made. The children also led in singing Happy Birthday, which moved Mrs Stephen to tears.

As a reporter, I knew the question you are meant to ask a 100-year-old is, “What is the secret to living to the age of 100?”
I attempted to ask Mrs Stephen, and after my preamble she commented, “I didn’t know if I would make it, but I did.”

Trying bravely to explain my purpose, I said some people might like to know how they could also live to 100 years old.

“Oh, they can do what I did, I suppose … goodness, nobody told me I was going to have to say a few words,” Mrs Stephen said.

Just what it was that Mrs Stephen did I never got to discover, as we were interrupted by the beginning of festivities.

Mrs Stephen had a second family gathering on Saturday, her official birthday.



Biographical details (Source Bill Stephen, Martinborough)

Born Gladys Roy in Dunedin on December 17, 1916,

Gladys was the oldest of four children, having two brothers and a sister.

She attended Maori Hill school until 1929 when the family moved to North East Valley.

She had a year at NEV school then Otago Girls High school.

Gladys worked in Penrose’s store in Dunedin until before the war when she moved to Wellington

where she met future husband Bill Stephen.

They lived in Karori, raising five sons and a daughter.

Bill died in 1980 and Gladys then she moved to Martinborough to be closer to grandchildren.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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