Mrs Eileen Oddy is about to celebrate her 100th birthday. The second resident of Metlifecare’s Hillsborough Heights retirement village to turn 100, her centenary will be marked with an afternoon celebration at the village. “I like to call it a ‘soiree’”, says Hillsborough Height Village Manager Penny Smith. “‘Afternoon tea’ is far too boring, it just doesn’t do justice to this amazing lady.”
Born in Canada in the Saskatchewan province on 13 November 1915, Mrs Oddy recalls a childhood of winter days of snow drifts and horse and sleigh rides to school across farms buried deep in snow, where they were kept warm by the huge furnace keeping the whole building warm. They were so powerful the heat blast could lift their skirts if they stood near the vents! . “Things were certainly different then.”
In Vancouver in 1934, aged 18, she met a Welshman at a party who’d been a fighter pilot in the First World War, and they married just shy of her 19th birthday. A stunt pilot, she recalls flying with him in Canada when he decided to show off some moves. As he executed a loop, at the very top her harness, which was a bit of canvas with a clip and too loose for her slim frame, came undone. She recalls the feeling of free falling before he pulled the aircraft up out of the loop and gravity forced her back into the seat.
“We found my goggles on the edge of the river later”, she says. “That was the biggest lucky escape of my life.”
When the couple’s daughter was 2, they left Vancouver and travelled down through the US west coast through the Panama Canal and into Jamaica where they stayed briefly before moving to the UK just a year before the outbreak of Second World War. They lived together in London during the terrible war years, before separating soon after. During the war Mrs Oddy worked as a nurse aid.
It was in England that Mrs Oddy met her second husband, Bob, and they married in 1950. “The best thing that ever happened in my life was meeting Bob”, Mrs Oddy says. “He was the love of my life.”
The couple went on to have two sons, Robert and Chris. Tiring of the terrible English weather, in 1956 the couple emigrated to New Zealand where Mr Oddy, an Engineer, worked for Dominion Motors.
After some years in West Auckland they moved to Whangaparaoa in 1990 and finally the couple moved into Hillsborough Heights Village on 6 May 2005 to be closer to their son Robert, their grandchildren and subsequent great-grandchildren. After enjoying village life for six years, sadly Mr Oddy passed away in 2011, just shy of his 90th birthday.
“I still miss him every day”, Mrs Oddy says.
Apart from being poor sighted, Mrs Oddy remains fit and active and living in her own two bedroom apartment within the village.
Eileen’s birthday celebrations will bring her other son, Chris, back from Australia, as well as her five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, the youngest being just three months old.
Reflecting on turning 100, Mrs Oddy says, “I can’t quite believe it. It’s something wonderful.”