A remarkable lady, who has celebrated her 108th birthday at her Sanctuary Care home last week, is believed to be the most mature person in Coventry.
Edith Smith lived independently until she was 104, when she moved into Lammas House Residential Care Home in Lammas Road, where she has celebrated her milestone birthday surrounded by residents, friends and family.
Born in Bradford in 1909, during the reign of King Edward VII to parents Louisa and Harry Laycock, Edith moved to Southbank Road in Coundon, Coventry with her first husband Harold and has lived in the city for most of her life.
Secrets to reaching 108
Talking about how she has reached such a fantastic age Edith said: “My secret is to love life and be happy. Working hard and looking after my family – and a few gin and tonics along the way!”
Talking about how she felt to potentially be the oldest person in Coventry she added: “I was asked this at 106 and now I’m 108 and I still feel as proud to reach such a great age.”
Life during the First World War
After losing her father at an early age, Edith and her mother spent the First World War with Belgian refugees, who paid rent to shelter in their home and taught Edith French.
Edith’s daughter-in-law Pat Smith recalls: “She vividly remembers soldiers marching past the window.”
Life during the Second World War
During the Second World War Harold was an engineer in a reserved occupation and was also responsible for looking out for fires started in the city when bombs were dropped by enemy aircraft, leaving Edith at home looking after their son Roger, who was just a baby at the time of the outbreak.
Edith didn’t have an air raid shelter in her garden so rather than use the communal shelter in the street, which was filthy and infested with rats; she would shield Roger during the bomb blasts by hiding under the dining room table.
Following the severe bombing of Coventry in November 1940, when the city was annihilated by German Luftwaffe, Edith and thousands of others escaped from the city.
Pat’s husband Bill said: “She lived about a mile outside of Coventry up on a hill, so was able to look down and see the city burning following two days of bombing.
“Many people camped in the woods to get away from the houses to safety.”
Edith and Roger moved to a farm in Leicestershire to get away from the danger of the raids, where they lived for several years.
Life after the war
After the war Edith lost her husband, who died of lung cancer at the age of 55. With a pension of just 50 pence per week she had to work as a bookkeeper for a company in Coventry to make ends meet. She sadly lost her son when he had a brain hemorrhage at the age of 35.
Edith found love again when she met her second husband Harry, at a dance hall. Sadly Harry passed away in 1986.
The birthday girl’s family has since blossomed into four generations with grandsons James and John and great grandchildren Freya and Beth.
108 birthday celebrations
Throughout her life Edith’s passion has been dancing and this was a hobby which she enjoyed until she was well into her 90s. Her love of dancing and music was in spirit today for her birthday celebrations with live musician Beth Berrick Lowe performing a range of hits from the 30s, 40s and 50s, which was followed by a mouth-watering birthday cake.
Rukmi Silva, home manager at Lammas House said: “Edith is a real lady – she has so much grace and elegance and is always immaculately presented, taking great pride in her appearance. She is inspirational and we are enormously proud to have Edith here with us here at Lammas House.”