Stylish celebration for centenarian

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014
Sally Cunningham
ROBYN EDIE// Fairfax NZ
A GRAND AGE: Sally Cunningham celebrates her 100th birthday with cousin Dorreen Metzger.

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Sally Cunningham has always loved an occasion to dress up - her 100th birthday was no exception.

The Peacehaven resident celebrated the milestone in style yesterday, dressed in glittering turquoise for a birthday afternoon tea.

Mrs Cunningham was born at Colac Bay in 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I.

Although officially named Sarah Belle, the centenarian has always been known to friends and relatives as Sally.

Mrs Cunningham's niece, Lynette Hunter, said her aunt was famous throughout the family for her exquisite dress sense.

"She'd never step outside unless she was immaculately dressed, with makeup on and earrings.

"She always dressed so elegantly."

As well as a style icon, Mrs Cunningham has always been a canny businesswoman, owning and operating several hospitality properties throughout her life.

Her first experience in the industry was helping her mother, Sarah Clode, run a dairy in Ettrick St as a teenager, Hunter said.

She soon wound up waitressing at the Waldorf Cafe in Wellington, where she met her future husband, Len, the cafe's chef.

The pair were married in June, 1940.

After World War II, the Cunninghams moved around the North Island, eventually buying the Ryecroft Private Hotel in Auckland.

When Len died in 1962, her aunt continued to operate the Ryecroft for 18 months by herself, Hunter said.

She then returned to Invercargill, where she bought the Chiquita Coffee Lounge in Tay St.

She went on to work in hospitality in Auckland, Rotorua, Adelaide, and Sydney before retiring to Invercargill.

She lived in her own home well into her nineties, Hunter said.

Friends and family gathered yesterday to celebrate the special day with Mrs Cunningham's favourite treat - chocolate.

"I'm very lucky to have reached this age," she said.

"It's a good age."

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