Many happy returns as South Shields’ grand old lady turns 105

Gwen Purvis celebrates her birthday with staff and fellow residents at Garden Hill Care Home

Gwen Purvis celebrates her birthday with staff and fellow residents at Garden Hill Care Home

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A South Tyneside centenarian had a ‘wed’ letter day to remember – after toasting a milestone birthday and anniversary all in one.

Grand old lady Gwen Purvis enjoyed double delight as she got into party mood for her 105th birthday, which also brought memories flooding back of a wedding day separated by over 80 years, but just a matter of yards away.

Garden Hill Care Home resident Gwen Purvis celebrates her 105th birthday.

Garden Hill Care Home resident Gwen Purvis celebrates her 105th birthday.

Mrs Purvis, who is a popular resident at Garden Hill Care Home in St Michael’s Avenue, South Shields tied the knot with late husband George at nearby St Michael’s Church on her 24th birthday back in 1935.

Their love was tragically cut short as George was sadly killed during the opening salvos of the Second World War in 1939 at the age of just 28, but his beloved bride remained in the town they now knew as home.

Caring staff made sure the sprightly pensioner was showered with plenty of attention on her momentous day, with flowers, cards and birthday cake laid on as she clutched another telegram from the Queen.

The birthday girl, who worked in the accounts department at Reyrolle, in Hebburn, was born in Jesmond in 1911 before moving to Spennymoor and finally laying down roots in South Shields.

I have had a very happy life.

Gwen Purvis

Still sharp-witted and bursting with life – she was playfully keen to keep the secret to a long life to herself and looking forward to the prospect of salmon for her birthday tea.

But care home staff were able to divulge just a few tips to a long and happy life.

Mrs Purvis said: “I have had a lovely day, it was so unexpected.

“I have had a birthday cake and flowers as well.

“It is also my wedding anniversary as I was married on my birthday at St Michael’s Church.

“I have had a very happy life. I think I’d better keep the secret to a long life to myself.”

Home manager Lindsay Donoghue-Flockhart was delighted to mark another special occasion in a remarkable life.

She says laughter and a spoonful of sugar in her tea are key ingredients to her oldest resident’s lasting longevity.

She added: “Gwen has been with us since April of last year.

“She is very sharp and independent and has a lovely manner with all of the staff.

“We have put on a nice afternoon tea party for her.

“I asked her what her secret to a long life was and she told me it was laughter.

“She also has to have a sugar in her tea.”