Deniliquin Pastoral Times

What a century

- By ZOE MCMAUGH

Erna Steponaiti­s says she has had a very lucky life.

She was born in Germany on August 8, 1921, when the country was still recovering from World War I and as a new political party called the Reichstag was gaining new powers every day.

By the time she was reached her 20s, war was brewing again.

With her husband John, Erna survived multiple bombings and the other horrors of World War II.

They also started their family amidst it all, with son John jnr arriving just before another air raid on the country.

‘‘Mum has told me that they were living in bunkers during the war, and when it was time for John to come along she had to take a train an hour and a half to the hospital,’’ daughter Jenny Patterson said.

‘‘One day after having John she was told everyone had to leave because they got word of a bombing.

‘‘The hospital was bombed on the same day she left.

‘‘They (mum and dad) lost so much during the war, and went through so much.’’

After the war, in 1949, Erna and John packed up their son and set off for new opportunit­ies in a far away land.

They have called Australia home ever since, with Jenny joining their family after they had settled in Sydney.

For the last 65 years, Deniliquin and district has been their home.

‘‘Mum and Dad had the opportunit­y to go to America or Australia, and they had heard so many wonderful things about Australia,’’ Jenny said.

‘‘They found it pretty hard at first because they could not speak English, but they got by.

‘‘They picked up the language as they went along, but of course their German heritage was still very important to them.

‘‘Even now if Mum cannot remember a word in English she’ll say it in German, and she still has her accent.’’

John and Erna’s first few years in Australia were spent at a migration camp, but on settling in Sydney they soon found a way to inject themselves in to the community.

‘‘Dad would sell bedding and manchester door to door, and Mum worked in a zipper factory in western Sydney,’’ Jenny said.

‘‘They then went to a station near Cootamundr­a where Dad was a farm hand and Mum was a house cleaner.

‘‘We came to Deniliquin when I was about six.

‘‘Dad originally worked for a car company and Mum worked for Doctor Harper caring for his children until they went to Morago East Station.

‘‘Dad was the gardener there and Mum the cleaner.

‘‘My brother John also worked there as an overseer, and after I was married they asked me to be the cook. So at one stage all four of us were working there.’’

After 16 years at Morago East Station, Erna and John snr retired back to Deniliquin.

That’s when Erna found herself a new passion.

‘‘Mum took up carpet bowls, and then later lawn bowls,’’ Jenny said.

‘‘And she won a lot of trophies.’’ Erna is the matriarch of five generation­s, with five grandchild­ren, two great grandchild­ren and two great-great grandchild­ren.

As is the norm these days, many wished her a happy 100th birthday via Zoom or video chat on Sunday.

Erna spent her birthday with her daughter and daughter-in-law Nicky Seymour at Navorina Nursing Home, receiving the present she’s desperatel­y been waiting her — her letter from Queen Elizabeth II.

Letters have also been received from other dignitarie­s including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley and NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton, which were also presented to the centenaria­n on Sunday.

Erna also received a welcome gift of loyalty ahead of her birthday, when last week her bank sent their longtime customer a huge bouquet of flowers and an even bigger birthday card to mark the special occasion.

And Navorina staff also showered the centenaria­n with love and well wishes early, when they hosted a 1920s themed day in Erna’s honour at the aged care facility on Thursday.

 ??  ?? ■ Erna Steponaiti­s and her daughter Jenny Patterson celebrated with a glass of bubbly on Sunday.
■ Erna Steponaiti­s and her daughter Jenny Patterson celebrated with a glass of bubbly on Sunday.
 ??  ?? ■ Erna Steponaiti­s with the huge birthday card she received.
■ Erna Steponaiti­s with the huge birthday card she received.

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