Four generations celebrate 100th birthday

Maria Welman blows out her candles.
MATTHEW CATTIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Maria Welman blows out her candles.

A special century was celebrated with music, balloon animals and cake at Maygrove Lifecare Resthome on Monday morning.

Resident Maria Welman, who turned 100 years old on Sunday, enjoyed the milestone with staff, friends, and four generations of her family.

Seated in the front row with a tiara on her head, Maria enjoyed a performance by magician and balloon artist Mr Walnut, and a moving rendition of Ave Maria by her granddaughter Danielle.

Maygrove Lifecare Resthome staff with 100 year old Maria Welman.
MATTHEW CATTIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Maygrove Lifecare Resthome staff with 100 year old Maria Welman.

At 100, staff say Maria is still very sharp, but slips into her mother tongue Dutch more than she used to.

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She's known for her cheeky sense of humour, and has a mischievous habit of ringing the assistance bell just to get everybody in her room.

"She's got quite a sense of humour, and the girls here put up with quite a lot from mum," daughter Lily Parker says.

Maria's favourite spot during the day is a chair in the facility's sunny courtyard.

She claims a little bit of vitamin D every day is the secret to ageing well.

Born in Haarlem in the Netherlands, Maria is the last surviving sibling of 10 children.

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She worked for a time as a shop assistant, and married Antonius Welman in Amsterdam in 1944.

Her first daughter was born in 1948, and Lily followed a decade later.

The family moved to New Zealand in the early 80s, but Maria and Antonius returned to the Netherlands in 1989 to care for Maria's grandmother, who also lived to 100.

When Antonius died in 1996, Maria decided to move to New Zealand to live with her daughters, but was delayed by injuries sustained while on holiday in the Netherlands.

"She took her cup and saucer to the kitchen, fell two metres down into the cellar and broke every bone in her body," Parker says.

The fall delayed her departure by a few years, but she eventually made it to New Zealand where she has remained since.

In her later years, Maria enjoyed bowls and crafts, and up until last year, she was still creating handmade 3D greetings cards. 

 - Rodney Times

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