Bessie Howe is arguably one of the few people in Tasmania who received a 100th birthday card from the Queen and is looking forward to getting a 105th card from King Charles III in two years’ time.
Bessie was on a float in Luton for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, and while she would love to attend Charles’ coronation, doesn’t have any plans to go.
Cards are sent to people celebrating their 105th birthday and every year after that. So on 24 December 2024, Bessie should have another royal birthday card up on display in her room, to join the framed one from Queen Elizabeth.
The sprightly 102-year-old lives at Uniting AgeWell Newnham Community Aldersgate Village and has lived through an astounding five monarchs – King George V, King Edward V111 (who abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson) and then King George V1.
And Bessie is healthy, has sailed through two pandemics (Spanish flu in 1919) and is still thoroughly enjoying life, according to the Residential Services Manager at the not-for-profit aged care provider, Audette Groenewold.
“Bessie is quite the social butterfly,” Audette says. “She loves playing trivia, bingo, cards and also enjoys the arts and crafts sessions. She’s always one of the first to turn up to all the events – especially the concerts!”
That’s Bessie’s motto. To live life to the max. “Make the most of life! Life is a wonderful thing, you know. It really is,” she says. “Treasure life, be optimistic, be kind and help people.”
The great-great grandmother adds, “I’ve been blessed with a good family and good health. Life’s not always easy, but you have faith and you get through.”
And she’s a smiling, cheerful example of just that. Bessie was born in Scotland and was a baby when her parents moved to the village of Luton outside London to look for work after WWI.
The depression hit hard, and with both her parents unemployed and her grandad the only person bringing home a wage, Bessie left school at 14 to become an apprentice milliner.
She was nineteen years old when she married Albert, and they went on to have children quickly because of the risk of him being called up to fight in WW II. Albert, a firefighter, died during the London Blitz. Their third child, a son, was only one day old when Bessie heard the news.
Bessie carried on making hats from home, which was enough to cover the rent and feed her little family. She reconnected with an old family friend, George, a soldier, and they were married.
“George was a wonderful husband and father to my children,” recalls Bessie. “We had a very, very nice life.”
Bessie’s daughter, Glennys moved to Tasmania with her husband, Mick. Seven years later she and George visited – and that was it! She succumbed to the magic of her grandchildren and the Apple Island. One year later, the whole family, apart from Bessie’s middle son, moved to Tasmania. Her middle son sadly later died of cancer.
Pictured: Bessie (centre) on a float in Luton for the Queens Coronation in 1953.Learn more about Uniting AgeWell Newnham Community Aldersgate Village