1921 was a tumultuous year. The world was in a recession with industrial unrest mounting and unemployment soaring. Russia was in the throes of the Great Famine, and communism was on the rise. It was also a year of firsts in New Zealand: ANZAC Day was observed for the first time, the first radio programmes were broadcast from Otago, and the Springboks toured New Zealand for the first time.
It was also the year that Eunice Cranston was born.
She was the oldest of three siblings who were separated when Eunice was 10 when her mother died of meningitis aged 31. Young Eunice went to live with her grandparents and despite all this describes her childhood as “marvellous”.
When Eunice was 21, she and family friend, Bill Limpus, began seeing each other. Bill was soon going off to war, and asked Eunice one day, “How long would it take you to get married?”
“Oh, about a week”, was the reply.
But when Bill proposed Eunice said, “Oh, I could never get married in a week!”
In fact, it took her two weeks. They had been courting just six weeks when they married on 4 November 1942.
Eunice had an extensive working life, including working in a shoe factory and in the cafeteria at Air New Zealand. She also ran a home for boys with Bill on Shelly Beach Road, helping wayward teenagers who hadn’t been naughty enough for prison.
Eunice shares an apartment with her daughter Janice (Jan) at Murray Halberg Retirement Village in Lynfield. Jan speaks highly of her parents. “They were always caring for people”, she says. “I’m biased, but her and dad were tremendous people, really good people who were always helping others.”
Eunice’s response to that was, “It was nothing. It was just the way back then”.
Jan, who used to run a hairdressing business, said her mum would even help her in the salon. “She was the shampoo girl!”
In celebration of Eunice’s 100th birthday last month, fellow residents, friends, and family, including her son Grant, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, filled the village activity room. Jan opened the celebration proceedings with a sweet speech comparing the qualities of her Mum with those listed in Galatians 5 v 22-23:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Said Jan: “When I read them, truly I was amazed because the Bible was describing my Mum.
It’s a question she gets asked a lot, but with a twinkle in her eye, Eunice reveals that her secret to longevity is “breathing”.