Celebrating 100 years

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Centenarian...Parata rest-home resident Eileen Windle holds the card she received from the Queen and some of the flowers she was given to celebrate her 100th birthday on Sunday.PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

There is a good chance if Eileen Windle’s father had not swallowed a cup of strong drink she would not be here today.

The Gore woman turned 100 on Sunday but celebrated at Parata rest-home, where she lives with family and friends, on Saturday.

Mrs Windle said during the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918 her parents, who lived in Lyttelton, were very ill.

“My father was measured up for his coffin,” she said.

Her parents were admitted to a hospital some Catholic nuns had started in a building.

A volunteer at the hospital slipped her father a cup of whisky or brandy and he drank it, thinking it was medicine, she said.

Shortly after he started coughing and vomiting.

“He brought up a tonne of stuff off his lungs and that brought him round.

“He always reckoned an alcoholic saved him.”

Two years later, Mrs Windle, the third child in the family, was born.

She was about 6 when her family moved from Lyttelton to Christchurch.

When she was a young woman she and three friends used to go yachting on the harbour.

The four would take their lunch and sail around the bays.

It was important to get back to the marina before nightfall as when the sun disappeared the wind died down.

“If you got stuck and people had to rescue you that was a real no-no.”

Just before World War 2, Mrs Windle started her nursing training and met Kevin “Digger” Windle while on holiday in Gore.

After the war the couple married and moved to Gore.

The couple were married about 24 years when Mr Windle died.

She did not know why she had lived for a century.

“It’s a gift rather than anything I would do.

“I don’t think anyone suspects when they are 20 that they are going to go to 100.”

For all that she did not smoke cigarettes or drink much alcohol.

Her Catholic faith was important to her and had provided comfort in troubling times.

“I think you can put your trust in God and things happen.”

Mrs Windle has five surviving children, 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.