Woman celebrates 102nd birthday in home rebuilt after fire

19:33, May 22 2014
helen rendall
HAPPY TIMES: Helen Rendall celebrates her 102nd birthday in her rebuilt Gore home with son Geoffrey after the house was gutted by fire last year.

Fiercely independent Gore woman Helen Rendall has celebrated her 102nd birthday with her son, who was nearly killed in a house fire last year.

And making yesterday's birthday even sweeter, she held the family party in her Toronto St home, which has been rebuilt after being gutted by the fire and where she returned this week.

Rendall was left reeling by the fire, which caused massive damage to her home of 74 years and left her son Geoffrey, 58, in hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

The fire was started by hot ashes left in a wheelie bin at the rear of the house.

Geoffrey Rendall, who has Down syndrome, spent about two months in Dunedin and Southland hospitals after being pulled out of the blaze by volunteer Gore firefighters.

He is now living in the Windsor Park Lifestyle Village in Gore. His mother drives to the care centre to visit him for two hours every day.


But she wants him to live with her again permanently.

"I want him to come home, he is all I have got," Rendall said. "The other children can look after themselves."

Known to complain about her insurance bills during the decades, her payout did allow her home to be rebuilt following the fire.

The home's interior has been totally redone.

A new roof has been fitted, the ceilings lowered and windows double glazed.

Perhaps most importantly, another coal range has been installed.

She had used a coal range to heat her home and cook prior to the fire.

Although she eventually got used to an electric oven and heat pump in her temporary home of the last 12 months, she was especially pleased to have another coal range.

She would continue to carry the wood and coal into the house to keep it going.

Still independent, she would also continue to weed the garden.

An electric oven and dishwasher have also been installed in her rebuilt home but they would not be used, she said.

"I don't want them here."

The newly-built house was nice, she said, but would take a lot of getting used to.

"Everything has changed, it's all different now ... the whole world has gone mad."

The Southland Times