Milestone a thrill for sharp lady

Wicked humour and sharp mind in tact

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2014
Nancy Soper
JOHN HAWKINS/ Fairfax NZ
'I'VE MADE IT': Nancy Soper celebrates turning 100.

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Not many people make it to 100, and even fewer make it with their mind still sharp.

Southland centenarian Nancy Soper is one of the lucky ones.

The Invercargill resident still has all her wits about her and still gives her family a run for their money when she wants, despite being born a century ago.

The milestone was slowly sinking in as Mrs Soper celebrated with family and neighbours yesterday.

"I was sitting here this morning and thinking, well, I am 100, I've made it. You know, I didn't think I would," she said.

Although reaching 100 was quite an achievement, yesterday's birthday was a little less eventful than Mrs Soper's 70th.

On that birthday, Invercargill was all but under water as the 1984 floods swamped Southland, and her husband, Harold, had to be rescued in a dinghy from the couple's Willis St house.

According to family legend, Mr Soper had returned to get his slippers.

Mrs Soper was born Nancy Simonsen, in Reefton, on the West Coast, and moved to Athol when her father worked there following the Murchison earthquake.

It was in Athol she met her husband, and the young couple married in 1932. Harold and Nancy had eight children, including a surprise set of twins, and enjoyed more than 70 years together until Mr Soper died in 2003.

Daughter Wendy Ward said her parents farmed at Athol, keeping their property, which they named Rosebank, looking like a park.

"People would come and stop and have a picnic in the garden."

Raising children in the isolated rural setting of Athol was sometimes tough, but her mother was a strong woman who had the resilience typical of Coasters, Mrs Ward said.

The couple retired to Invercargill in 1978, and Mrs Soper is still living in the home with daughter Audrey Richmond, still able to walk on her own and still entertaining her family with her wicked sense of humour and sharp mind.

After celebrating her milestone age with family and friends at the weekend, Mrs Soper had only one more request for her special day yesterday.

"I wish the sun would come out."

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