Hilda Simmons marks a major milestone in turning 101 today.
You could say that special souls like Hilda Simmons only come around every 100 years.
Today is Hilda’s 101st birthday, and while last year’s was a big one, Hilda was looking forward most of all to spending time with her grandchildren and great grandchildren over a quiet afternoon tea in Whangamata¯ .
“It seems to have come around very quickly,” says Hilda, who is looking lively and elegant with a touch of lipstick and her newly styled hair.
Hilda lives independently in her home behind her son John and daughter-and-in-law Marie’s Whangamata¯ home. She is unaided when it comes to many of life’s daily routines except for cooking, and enjoys outings to Whangamata¯ Club once a week to play pokies.
Hilda’s parents, Ada and Herbert Green, lived in Ocean Rd in a little white cottage that her father built and which remains today.
“I don’t like going back there because it makes me sad. John tells me that’s silly because they were happy years, and happy memories.”
The former retail assistant spent most Christmas holidays here, recalling days when there was no power, a water pump was run by a petrol motor, and the butcher delivered meat once a week to be kept in a safe until it had to be cooked.
When asked what she thinks of the pace and pressures of life for her great grandchildren, Hilda remembers New Zealand’s economic downturns and the poverty.
“It was hard to be brought up when we were children. There were times when many people couldn’t get a job. But we had simple pleasures and you make the best of things.”
Hilda’s husband Vivian, who she met in Taumaranui, also found it hard getting work after returning from the Canadian Air Force with hearing loss due to high altitude flying.
“But we got through it all. We were very happy.”
In the month that Hilda was one -year-old there was jubilation over the end of World War I and the Spanish influenza was sweeping through the population.
“I was born in the same place as Jacinda Ardern,” she says of her Morrinsville roots, adding that the card she received from the Prime Minister on her 100th birthday was beautiful.
Hilda’s century of life has brought periods of terrible sadness, when Vivian died suddenly at the age of 50 with heart failure, and when she lost a sister in the Mt Erebus crash.
But longevity runs in the family, and when her father died at age 84, Hilda’s mother Ada moved in with her for 17 years until Ada died in her 102nd year.
“She was no trouble.”
Spending time with her family at the beach in Whangamata¯ is one of the highlights of Hilda’s 101 years, and she also loved ballroom dancing. There’s no exercise regime or diet to thank for her longevity — just genes.
“My cousin Ella Wilson in Rotorua is 104.”
Happy birthday Hilda!
‘It was hard to be brought up when we were children. There were times when many people couldn’t get a job. But we had simple pleasures and you make the best of things.’
HILDA SIMMONS, 101
Hilda Simmons, who turns 101 today with her daughter-in-law Marie and son John.