In 1919 several famous people were born. Some of these included crooner Nat King Cole, the flamboyant Liberace, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, actor and rodeo star Slim Pickens, ballerina Margo Fonteyn, Argentina’s First Lady Evita Peron, and our own Edmund Hillary. All of these celebrities are now long gone.
However, Lynfield resident Mrs Martha Vir who was also born that year is very much looking forward to celebrating her 100th birthday on July 10th, and most particularly receiving a letter from Queen Elizabeth II.
In honour of her friend‘s impending birthday, Mrs Pratima Nand put together a brief biography:
Martha was born into a farming family in Ba, Fiji Islands, and grew up in Rakiraki. At the age of 16, she married Samuel Vir and moved to her marital home in Navua, subsequently relocating to Tavua.
In 1944 they moved to Suva, eventually migrating to Auckland in 2001 to be with her children. Sadly, Martha lost her husband six months after moving to NZ. She has six surviving children (four daughters and two sons), 17 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Converting to Christianity in 1947 having been raised in a staunch Hindu background, Martha is well-versed in the Hindu and biblical scriptures. She has a strong faith and frequently is called upon by her family to pray for them when sitting for exams, going for job interviews or for anything else of significance. She starts each day by lighting a candle and uplifting her entire family in prayer.
In Fiji Martha was a dedicated member of the Methodist church in Toorak, Suva, assisting in many ways behind the scenes without seeking recognition. She used to gather all her children once a month to clean the church inside and out. Likewise, in Auckland she took pride in sweeping the outside of the Lynfield Community Church on late Saturday afternoon in preparation for the Sunday morning service.
Her compassion led her to open her doors to deserted children, single mothers, and victims of domestic violence. She also acted as a mediator to couples undergoing marital crisis.
I feel truly blessed and thankful to God for my life
Martha was fortunate to have travelled to India six times, leading tour groups. On her initial trip in 1959, she met the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and has since met some 45 Bollywood icons.
Despite some frailty nowadays, Martha enjoys a surprising independence in her own unit. She continues to do her own housekeeping, laundry and cooking, and insists on walking to her church for worship.
She has been known to entertain friends and family with stories from her youth; with a glint in her eye she narrates one of her favourites involving her task of driving the cows into the cow shed - the sight of her astride her horse inevitably dictating to the cows what to do.
Now with the luxury of time, Martha is able to enjoy some hobbies. Once a keen gardener whose green fingers magically nurtured blossoms to emerge, she now looks forward each year to the Ellerslie Flower Show. She also loves to cook, a life-long hobby and skill which has blessed her family, friends and the community. A favourite pastime is watching her Hindi serials, particularly Jhansi Ki Rani, which as of late has been irregular in its screening much to her annoyance.
It’s not surprising that as Martha approaches her 100th birthday many of her family and circle of friends are no longer around to help her celebrate this auspicious milestone. Despite the trauma of losing children, grandchildren and very close family members, she has shown amazing resilience, and this can be attributed to her strong faith. She feels truly blessed and thankful to God for her longevity.
And she is very much looking forward to that special letter from the Queen!