Rose celebrating a very fine century

BLESSED: Rose Boyer with her congratulatory letter from Queen Elizabeth II. Photo supplied.

Being vibrantly fit, healthy and sharp as a tack belies the age of a centenarian who astounds all those who meet her.

Rosemary (Rose) Boyer celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday and a highlight was confidently striding to the front of the congregation at St Mark’s Catholic Church in Pakuranga.

Mrs Boyer revelled in the singing of Happy Birthday, and receiving a special blessing and big hug from Father Emile Frische.

“He mentioned my age and nobody could believe I was so old,” says Mrs Boyer.

“It was the highlight of my birthday and in the afternoon I had a wonderful party with my family some travelling from around New Zealand and Australia.”

Mrs Boyer now lives at Ambridge Rose Manor in Pakuranga and the staff members love her company and stories.

In 1917, John and Mary Collins welcomed Rosemary into the world at Mosman, Sydney.

When Rose was 10, the family moved to Suva in Fiji, where her father was born.

“It was the Great Depression and my father lost his job in Sydney and he went back to Fiji where he could easily get a job.”

Rose went to a Catholic convent girls’ school, St Joseph de Cluny, and there was never a family car, so the sisters walked to and from school every day.

Now, one sister who is a sprightly 97, lives at Havelock North. Their other sister died at the age of 93.

The girls’ daily chores included sweeping and dusting the house before school without any modern work-saving devices – just a broom and elbow grease.

Rose’s first job was as a bookkeeper for Sir Henry Scott, a significant political and legal identity in Fiji.

“There was a large handwritten ledger and it had to balance every month.”

The Collins sisters didn’t discover boys until they left school and Rose met her future husband at the local church social group – over ping pong, housie, euchre and bridge.

In 1942, Rose and James (Jim) Boyer married.

“I couldn’t have a bridal gown because you couldn’t get any veils or dresses during the war,” Mrs Boyer says.

There was a constant worry about a potential invasion by the Japanese and when an attack was suspected, Mrs Boyer rushed to put the company’s precious books in the safe. The couple had their first child in 1943, a baby girl Mary, who died at five weeks.

They had four more children and it was tough for mums then with nappies washed with scrubbing brushes and wash boards, which demanded a daily 5am start.

Mr Boyer worked in a well-known grocery business, Burns Philp and supplied raw ingredients for Mrs Boyer’s Christmas cake business.

Annually, she started the mammoth baking operation in September and the small home kitchen oven could only handle one to two cakes at a time.

Asbestos mats were in the bottom of every cake tin and not one ever burned.

In the last year of production, Mrs Boyer made 1100 cakes that were sold through her husband’s shop.

In 1959, after several years of managing Fiji’s Sigatoka hotel, the family moved to New Zealand for the boys’ schooling.

The Boyers bought the dairy across the road from Otahuhu College and they regularly sold super-thick milkshakes to a young David Lange who attended the school.

They owned the dairy for 18 years until Mr Boyer died in 1977 and then Mrs Boyer lived with family in various locations throughout the Auckland region.

At the age of 60, she surprised her family by taking driving lessons and obtaining her first driver’s licence.

In 2002, she moved with her daughter to Abercrombie Street, Howick, and at age 95, Mrs Boyer moved into Ambridge Rose Manor.

Her weekly routine includes shopping, library trips, dining at restaurants and cafés with her family, and attending St Mark’s Catholic Church.

At her 100th birthday party the family celebrated her impressive age and accomplishment of five children, 11 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

Messages from Queen Elizabeth II, New Zealand’s Governor General and various politicians were well-received.

Mrs Boyer is still waiting for a card from the Prime Minister but maybe he can be forgiven as he only started his new job just before Christmas.

By:Jackie Russell