Queen Merle’s marvellous milestone
COFFS Harbour resident Merle Stevens didn't let COVID-19 restrictions dampen her milestone birthday.
She celebrated in style with a socially distanced high tea with 20 of her closest friends at RetireAustralia's Boambee Gardens Retirement Village on August 31.
She will follow that up with a small family gathering as she reflects on her years - from the meeting the love of her life and surviving the rigours of World War II to her general resilience.
When asked what her secret to getting though life's inevitable hard times, she said: "I would tell people to have faith.
"I have always had a connection to church and that has helped me through."
One of the hardest times in her life was when her son John was a prisoner of war for seven years.
"We knew he would come home though as my mother prayed every day for him to come home to us.
"John later said that he knew he would come home to us too as he knew she would be praying for him.''
Born in Sydney on September 2, 1920, Merle's family of four moved many times due to her father's desire "to try new things'' - including a stint on a poultry farm, which left her with a lifelong dislike of chicken.
Merle married husband Syd in June 1941 following his proposal on New Year's Eve in 1940.
With the war in full swing however, their wedding night was spent on a train from Sydney to Melbourne, where Syd was in the Air Force.
The couple moved to Boambee Gardens in 2006 and celebrated their 70th anniversary there shortly before Syd sadly passed away.
Today Merle is a proud mother of three, and a grandmother and great grandmother of nine, and one of her favourite things is getting her hair done at Boambee Gardens every Wednesday.
Village Manager Lexi Connor says Merle is a popular member of the community, with the high tea the centre of much attention.
"There are other residents here who actually call her Mum. She's an absolute gem and a real salt of the earth lady, deserving of recognition for such an amazing milestone as her 100th year," she said.
"During our 12-week hard lockdown for COVID-19, Merle was only leaving her home to have her hair done at our salon each week.
"We would take her home in our golf buggy, doing a lap of the village so she could wave to residents who were enjoying our regular Roadside Refreshments afternoons, with everyone sitting at the front of their homes enjoying music and socially distanced refreshments."
She became affectionately known as Queen Merle during this time, recognisable by her royal wave - lighting up when everyone gave her a wave in return.'
Boambee Gardens Retirement Village offers 94 independent units and 25 serviced apartments to cater to a range of needs. Located just moments from Boambee Beach and the scenic Boambee Headland Lookout, residents enjoy an idyllic coastal location and relaxed, low-maintenance lifestyle.
To find out more about living at Boambee Gardens Retirement Village, call 1300 931 497 or click on retireaustralia.com.au/communities/boambee-gardens.