A fighting spirit, hard work and a good pair of stiletto heels are a grandmother’s secret to reaching 101.
Animal lover Norah Harris celebrated her milestone birthday this week with a 101 Dalmatians-themed party at Sanctuary Care’s Juniper House Residential Care Home in St John’s, Worcester.
A special visit
As part of the celebrations, the team organised for Dalmatian Luca from British Dalmatian Welfare to pop along for a surprise visit. The home was decked in black and white and the manager, Cindy Hawkins was dressed as Cruella de Vil, the film’s notorious villain.
When asked her secret to reaching such an incredible age the birthday girl, who has four grandchildren and eight great grandchildren said: “Hard work, it has not always been easy but I have just got on with it and feel happy to be celebrating my birthday. The most enjoyable parts of my life so far have been having the children.”
A great pair of heels!
When asked how her mum is still in such fantastic shape Norah’s daughter Meryl Bradshaw, who lives in Droitwich with her husband David, said it was all down to a killer pair of heels.
“I know it sounds funny but she wore stiletto heels until she was 65, she was always clipping around in them,” she joked.
“She used to walk down the hill to work at 5.30am, waking up the neighbours because there was no double glazing, and then back up the hill afterwards. Everybody knew who it was because you could hear her coming, but it kept her fit.
“I brought her a pair of boots for a day out when she was 100 and she said ‘I’ve never worn a pair of boots in my life!’.”
Norah has lived with Sanctuary Care for over three years and has lived at Juniper House Residential Care Home in Oak View Way, which provides residential care and dementia care, since it opened in the summer.
Born in Birmingham to parents Francis and Mary-Ellen – both originally from Ireland - Norah grew up in Selly Oak and was an only child. Her father was killed in the Battle of the Somme during the First World War when she was just two years old.
Since her 100th birthday, Norah has discovered where her father was buried, in a communal grave in France, and that he has his name on a special memorial placed there.
In 1936 Norah met husband-to-be Arthur on what was locally known as the Monkey Run in Selly Oak – a street where boys walked down one side and girls the other, in the hope that they might see someone who took their fancy - so it was literally love at first sight!
Norah has two daughters Meryl and Patricia, who sadly died several years ago, nine months before her son William passed away.
Meryl said of her mum’s fighting spirit: “She is feisty. Because of the hard life she’s had she has had to get on with it.”
During the Second World War Arthur was killed in service in 1945 on the border of Germany and Holland when Meryl was just two years old. Norah’s mother helped to raise the children while she worked to make enough money to look after them.
Meryl said: “It was a very hard life for her. When she got the telegram to say my dad had been killed she knew she was going to have to go work because the Government only gave widows 10 shillings a week and she had a mortgage to pay. She did have it tough and had to work all her life.”
Norah spent most of her life drilling in factories in and around the Birmingham area, before she moved to Droitwich to be closer to Meryl.
Strength of character
Speaking about how proud she feels of her mother Meryl added: “We are all very proud of her and very much amazed. She is tough as old boots and is bright as a button and full of life. You would never believe she was 101.”
Manager at the home, Cindy Hawkins added: “Norah is a huge character in our home. She is such a witty and remarkable lady and we are honoured to be celebrating this special birthday with her.”