Generosity and keeping busy the secret to 100 healthy years

Sylvia Murphy is the proud holder of one of Queen Elizabeth II's last 100th birthday messages - with Kathleen Murphy and son Dan Murphy.

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

Sylvia Murphy is the proud holder of one of Queen Elizabeth II’s last 100th birthday messages – with Kathleen Murphy and son Dan Murphy.

New Zealand’s newest 100-year-old Sylvia Murphy is the proud holder of one of the last birthday greetings signed by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Son Dan Murphy said the message arrived in the post the day before the late monarch’s death, making it rather more poignant.

Daughter-in-law Kathleen Murphy said Sylvia often read magazines and was aware of what was happening with the Royal Family, and always thought the Queen was “a nice lady”.

Sylvia, who turned 100 on Sunday, was almost totally deaf and depended on her son to take his mask off and explain what people were saying at a birthday celebration at Radius Peppertree rest home in Palmerston North on Friday.

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Apart from her lack of hearing, she was in great health, not taking any prescription medications at all.

“Her long life mantra is, rise early, eat healthy meals, work hard and care about other people,” Dan Murphy said.

“She has certainly excelled in all of these.”

Sylvia Isabel Phillips was born on September 25, 1922, at the family home in Wharehuia near Midhirst, Stratford, in Taranaki.

She was the last survivor of a family of 15 children. She grew up in Taranaki, and married sheep farmer Barney Murphy at Meremere near Hawera in 1946.

Meremere was the Murphy family homestead where she hosted many family meals and events.

As well as having five children of her own, Dan Murphy remembers there were always children from the neighborhood and extended family at the house.

“There was rarely a time when there weren’t extras in the household. Likewise, she was always there for her grandchildren.”

There were 18 of them.

Sylvia Murphy reads one of the last 100th birthday greetings from the Queen.

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

Sylvia Murphy reads one of the last 100th birthday greetings from the Queen.

The couple sold the family farm and retired to Hawera township, and Barney Murphy died shortly after, in 1978.

Dan Murphy said that was probably the only time in her life that his mother was lonely.

She soon became an integral part of the town’s community.

She learned to play croquet, going on to win many trophies, and then became an umpire, and club captain of the Hawera Croquet Club for many years.

Although becoming elderly herself, she continued to care for others, delivering home-cooked meals to younger elderly women and driving them to appointments.

She was a keen gardener, growing flowers and the vegetables used in the home meals she loved to provide for friends and family.

Sylvia Murphy continued to live alone, and was driving her own car, up until she was 95 years old.

At that stage she moved to Pahīatua to live with her daughter Geraldine Harvey.

She moved into Radius Peppertree in October 2019, where her milestone birthday was celebrated with cake and flowers, and gifts including a framed photograph and a new tea cup and saucer.

The Queen’s coffin has been lowered into the Royal Vault at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, reuniting her with her late husband.

The family celebration with about 60 attending was to be held on Sunday.

According to Statistico, approximately 307,000 telegrams have been sent out by the Queen to people celebrating their 100th birthday in the UK since the start of her reign in 1952.

A State Memorial Service at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul will lead Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Day events on Monday.

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