A century of significant occasions
From the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake, raising her son while her husband fought overseas in World War II and now the Covid-19 pandemic, “it’s been a busy life”, says Napier’s newest centenarian. Audrey Denham celebrated her 100th birthday with friends and family at the Princess Alexandra Retirement Village on Sunday. Napier-born and raised, Denham grew up next to the now-closed Bluff Hill Primary School, which she attended. She was there on February 3, 1931, the day the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Hawke’s Bay region. “It’s not something you forget in a hurry. There was a terrible noise as well as everything rattling and falling off.” Her two-storey wooden home escaped significant damage despite the brick chimneys coming down. “The whole place was in a mess.” She and one of her sisters were sent to Wellington, while her brother was sent to New Plymouth and her older sister remained behind to help with the clean-up efforts. “That was too exciting really,” Denham said. “It’s been quite a busy life.” After finishing at Hastings Girls’ High School, shemovedto Wellington where her husband worked in insurance. Her son, Toby, was born just before her husband left to fight in World War II. They returned to Hawke’s Bay in 1977, with their two boys and two girls. As her children left home, Denham decided to revisit her interest in Roman and Greek Classics, completing a Bachelor of Arts in English and Classics. “I’ve always been curious about that sort of thing.” Denham couldn’t decide who her favourite classic hero or god was, but confirmed Dionysus — the Greek god of wine — did not appear at her birthday celebrations over the weekend. “We had a nice little party. It was so good seeing my family and relatives.” Unfortunately, her sons and grandchildren from Australia were unable to attend because a Covid spike in New South Wales closed the border. Denham said she had received lots of lovely cards including from the offices of the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Governor-General. “It was very nice to be acknowledged.” She attributed her long life to eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, a “glass of red at dinner” and daily walks, though she admitted they had gotten “shorter and shorter”. Her favourite period of time was her “early life” and she thought the telephone was the best invention. “I don’t think things have improved all that much with technology. Children spend all their time on devices instead of running around outside.” Denham said it was “amazing to have gotten so far”.