Wangaratta woman celebrates 25 birthdays in 100 years

IN her best pink dress, 100-year-old Eileen Emery had lunch with friends to celebrate her 25th birthday.

RARE CELEBRATION: Eileen Emery may turn 100 on Monday, but she will be celebrating her 25th birthday. Pictures: MARK JESSER

RARE CELEBRATION: Eileen Emery may turn 100 on Monday, but she will be celebrating her 25th birthday. Pictures: MARK JESSER

OLD FRIENDS: Eileen Emery, 100, with her bridesmaid Gladys Crawford, 90, of Corowa, who celebrated together at Brown Brothers Estate.

OLD FRIENDS: Eileen Emery, 100, with her bridesmaid Gladys Crawford, 90, of Corowa, who celebrated together at Brown Brothers Estate.

It was one of the few chances she has had in the past century to proclaim the February 29 event.

Ms Emery joked the 100 years felt like 1000 as she sat at Brown Brother Estate.

She would make the most of the actual day with an afternoon tea at St Catherine's Hostel in Wangaratta on Monday.

“Friendship is the secret to living long,” Ms Emery said.

“And good food.”

Friends played a big role for the Irish immigrant who came to Australia on a ship in 1950 to work as a nurse during the diphtheria and polio epidemics.

Once she arrived in Melbourne, she was registered at the Victorian Nursing Council then jumped aboard a train and was on her way to the Wangaratta Hospital.

The Australian culture grew on her since arriving and she is now a Geelong supporter who enjoys keeping up with the latest football scores and news.

Long-time friend Maree McCudden, who became Ms Emery's guardian, said she had longed to see the bush, cowboys, kookaburras and plenty of sunshine.

"She's still fun-loving and likes to get out of the nursing home," she said.

"Her memory is sharp as ever and she has really become part of the family."

A vision and hearing impairment didn't get in the way of Ms Emery's celebrations.

A smile crossed her face as she got up and about with the help of her walking frame. 

All the friends who got her to her 100th year surrounded the table for lunch.

“It's lovely to see everybody,” Ms Emery said.

“The greatest thing in life is the Lord was good to me and gave me the most wonderful friends.

“It has been the best gift in life.”

Ms Emery is one of six children who grew up on the dairy and potato farm at Knocknagree to the south of Ireland.

At 16 she decided to become a nurse and in 1934 moved to Essex, England to pursue her career.

The Germans began to bomb England in 1940 and Ms Emery stayed through the war for a decade before shipping off down under.

In Australia, she spent time at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital where she tended to Sir Thomas Blamey and was acting matron at Rutherglen Hospital.

She married Kieran Emery in 1957 at their home in Green Street, Wangaratta.

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