Three-hundred years of human experience celebrated in one room

June Finlayson nee Morris (left) and Kath Stalker with their cakes for her 100th birthday earlier this month. Photo / Andrew Warner

Cake cutting, applause, singing and ukulele strumming were all part of a local retirement village celebrating the 100th birthdays of three of its residents.

Residents and staff at Bupa Redwood Retirement Village and Nursing Home gathered in celebration Wednesday. The Thermaleles performed.

There were cakes for June Finlayson and Kath Stalker, who turned 100 this month, and Selwyn Huston, who turned 100 in January.

Kath Stalker was born on June 7, 1922 in Auckland. Her father was a construction worker and had a part-time job at Ellerslie Racecourse, leaving her mother to tend to then-unusual yard chores like mowing the lawn.

Her daughter Robyn Woodroffe shared Kath’s life story with those present and said Kath remembered sliding down Nuku’alofa palm fronds down One Tree Hill in Auckland as children with her sister and friends.

Kath recalls the depression and how, even though her family was not doing well, her mother prepared an extra lunch for Kath to give to other kids at school who didn’t have any.

On her first day at Auckland Girls’ Grammar School, she made a friend who, 88 years later, she is still in contact with.

After school, Kath took up office work and one of her hobbies was tatting.

After marrying in 1946 she moved to England for 18 months where Robyn was born and she saw the results of the bombing and blitz and experienced rationing. She returned to New Zealand in 1947 aboard the Akaroa.

When she returned she joined a badminton club, later married her husband Horrie and the couple had two more children – Julie and Gary.

In the early 1960’s, Kath’s husband, who was an architect and partner at Sargeant and Smith and Partners, moved to Rotorua where he designed many buildings in the area.

Robyn said, “They joined the Wine and Food Society and the Golf Club and got to know a lot more people as a result.”

Kath also enjoyed traveling through her husband’s position at Kiwanis.

Her husband died 18 years ago. She lived at home until three months ago when she decided to move to Bupa Redwood due to her declining mobility.

Kath’s three children have given her three grandchildren, one granddaughter, three great-granddaughters and one great-grandson.

June Finlayson (nee Morris) was born on 18 June 1922 at Dunedin Hospital.

She came from a large family of 11 girls and one boy. She grew up in a farming family in Otago.

June Finlayson nee Morris (left), Kath Stalker and Selwyn Huston turned 100 this year at the Bupa Redwood Retirement Village and Care Home.  Photo / Andrew Warner
June Finlayson nee Morris (left), Kath Stalker and Selwyn Huston turned 100 this year at Bupa Redwood Retirement Village and Care Home. Photo / Andrew Warner

Her husband Graham worked as a bank manager for the National Bank of NZ meaning they moved and lived in many towns and cities over the years.

He also spent time in the New Zealand Fleet Air Arm but was part of the British branch.

June had six children. She was a seamstress and basically all her children’s clothes were handmade.

Whatever community she lived in, June loved serving on committees and was a supporter of Plunket.

Her daughter Janene Sherlock was at the celebration this week and said: “If they didn’t have one [Plunket] In the town where she lived, she made sure there was one before she left.”

June and her husband Graham married during the war and honeymooned in Rotorua.

Her husband died in Auckland in 2002. Her family then decided it would be best for June to move to Rotorua and Bupa Redwood to be closer to family.

Janene described her mother as “a survivor of all kinds.”

Selwyn Huston was born on January 2, 1922 in Wellington.

He later married his mistress Jean and they had three children. He has eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Selwyn lived most of his life in Wellington and worked in the automotive industry.

He remembers vacations at the fisherman’s hut in Taupō and running around freely as a child.

Noku Sibanda, general manager of Bupa Redwood Retirement Village and Care Home, said during the celebration that it is very special and honored to have three residents turn 100.

“We don’t take it for granted, we’re so privileged and grateful for it. We would all like to know the secret of how someone lives to be 100 years old.”

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick was in attendance and said it was nice to be there.

“It’s nice that you’re here, have friends and family with you, and lots of memories to hold onto.

“As a community, we want to thank you for your legacy.”

She said she used to meet everyone who lived to be 100 individually, but now so many people are living longer that she can’t make it to every birthday.

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