When asked for one piece of wisdom he has learnt from his 100-year life, Abel Charles says, "Always listen to the advice your mother gave you."
In his Newtown rest home bedroom, mementos of times gone by line the walls. He proudly displays a love letter from his late wife received while at war, photos of family, and war medals.
Mr Charles was born at Wellington Hospital on December 6, 1912. He grew up in Stanley St, Berhampore, with his four brothers and two sisters.
"I had a great time growing up," he said.
Mr Charles met his wife, Mavis Chatfield when they attended Berhampore School, but they didn't get to know each other until they were members at the Berhampore tennis club in their 20s.
They married when he was 26 and she was 27 at St Cuthbert's Church, Berhampore, and were, he said, "soul mates".
They had not been married long before Mr Charles had to go to war.
From 1942, Mr Charles served in the army in North Africa and Italy. He was shot at Monte Cassino in engagement that killed three and wounded 12.
A telegraph from a friend welcoming him home from war is still pinned to his bedroom wall.
The couple never had children, but when Mrs Charles' sister-in- law, Anne, died young, her brother, Albert Chatfield, and his three children moved in, and from 1957 until 1960 the couple raised the children.
Mr Charles never attended college. He went from primary school to working in a warehouse, also working for Moore Wilson in its commercial sales team, and in an export company until the 1970s.
"I had a good working life," he said.
Mr Charles always loved sport, playing cricket, rugby, golf, tennis and bowls. He kept a 1972 article from The Dominion, which cited him as having "a pleasant temperament on the bowling ground".
The couple, who were married for 71 years, were foundation members of Berhampore Bowling Club, serving as men's and women's presidents.
They always lived in Wellington, either in Berhampore or Island Bay. Into their early 90s, they stayed at home and supported themselves. Mrs Charles died two years ago.
Mr Charles said time was a funny thing - sometimes the years went quickly, sometimes they didn't.
His nephew Keith Chatfield, who works in a retirement village, said Mr Charles' long life could be attributed to the fact that he was never a smoker and only a very moderate drinker. Mavis made him an orange toddy with an egg every morning, which could have done the trick, Mr Chatfield said.
Mr Charles still gets out two or three times a week, and walks easily without aid. "He has had a wonderful life," Mr Chatfield said.
Te Hopai home, where Mr Charles lives, put on a birthday party for him last week.
The family got together last Saturday for an early Christmas party and to celebrate the birthday milestone.
- The Wellingtonian