Marie celebrates 103rd birthday

Marie Kirky celebrated her 103rd birthday in February. Pictures: GRACE CRICHTON

Good genes, a healthy diet, and working hard are the cornerstones to Marie Kirkby’s longevity.

The centenarian celebrated her 103rd birthday on 26 February.

Now a resident of Regis Aged Care Gatton, Marie is from New South Wales and has journeyed across the globe.

She was born in Leeton, NSW in 1921 and had a younger sister.

At 14, she was sent to school in Sydney where her after school job in a nursing home paved the way for her to become a nurse.

She trained at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, just before World War II broke out.

“I did my nurses training which was four years,” Marie said.

“Then I applied for the Air Force and they accepted me, so I was in the Air Force until the war ended which was another two years.”

She went to Concord hospital to nurse returning soldiers.

It was there she met a returned tail gunner, who was to become her husband.

“He was sent back home, he wasn’t well, and that’s when I met him,” Marie said.

“I nursed him, and that was that.

“He was a very nice man.”

Their daughter, Ros Shapter, said her father was one of the lucky ones to return home after the tail was knocked off his plane and he managed to hang on until they landed it.

“The war finished in August and they were married in November,” Ros said.

They shared the running of a newsagency in Kings Cross when they welcomed Ros in 1947 before they returned to Ian’s family property a few years later.

“When I was three, we then went back to the country to dad’s mother,” Ros said.

“She owned a big property at Kingstown in New South Wales.

“Dad’s father died when he was 10 and she ran that property, 10,000 acres of it, by herself until dad came back from the war, married, and went back up.”

Marie worked hard to provide for her family, dedicating her time to growing vegetables, cooking, preserving the many fruits from the orchard, and sewing.

“I like the land too, I loved the country,” Marie said.

She was averse to working with horses, after a sulky accident when she was a small child, but was very competent at domestic life.

“She did beautiful gardening, she was a great gardener and grew all our vegetables for us,” Ros said.

“She was a wonderful gardener, and did all the cooking.

“Grandma had a beautiful orchard and mum preserved.

“We would have a hundred bottles of preserves in the pantry of all the different fruits.

“Mum worked extremely hard. Always.

“You never saw mum doing nothing, she was always a very hard worker.”

Marie has seen great things locally and internationally.

She travelled to Egypt, Europe, China, USA and Canada, New Zealand, as well as Tasmania, Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island.

She travelled to Sydney in 1932 to witness the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

And alongside her sister and her cousin, flew with aviation pioneer Charles Kingsford Smith.

“He was doing trips for ten shillings,” Marie said.

“It was a short trip, only five minutes, or ten minutes.”

But the trip has stayed with her.

Before moving to the Lockyer Valley two years ago, country New South Wales was her home.

“She went from Kingstown, to Moree, back to Sydney, then came up to Ellangowan which is outside Casino near Lismore, and then they went to McKees Hill near Lismore, then she moved into Lismore,” Ros said.

She came to live with Ros in Kensington Grove for a short while before moving to Regis in July 2023.

“She loves it here,” Ros said.

“The nursing staff are very good to her.”

There were two centenarians on Marie’s father’s side, so perhaps it is genetics, or perhaps it was growing their own produce and livestock which helped Marie reach an impressive age.

“I never feel sick, I feel very well,” she said.

“So probably it’s what you eat, do you think?”

But regardless of the number, her years were filled with love, adventure and experiences.