Happy 104th birthday Isabelle

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    Isabelle Burgess-Matthews who turns 104 this weekend. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO

    TO say Southland has changed in Isabelle Burgess-Matthews’ lifetime is a bit of an understatement.

    The quick-minded lady, who turns 104 this weekend, can still remember going from Spar Bush to Invercargill with her grandparents in their gig drawn by one horse.

    In winter, she needed to wear her gumboots and her father had to clear tracks so she could go to school.

    Mrs Burgess-Matthews, nee Miles, said children today wouldn’t have those experiences.

    “What’s changed? Too many things I think everything changed.”

    A smile adds more creases to her face as she talks about her time as a nurse in the former Kew Hospital and her days at her family’s farm.

    “I was Dad’s right hand because I was the eldest. I soon learned to set a rabbit trap. Every evening after dusk, it was around the traps to collect my catch I had to wring their necks, which helped my muscles grow,” she said with a laugh.

    In her younger days, she remembered her holidays around Southland.

    The Riverton Rocks was a special place with different old friends who were no longer around.

    “But happy memories still exist for me.”

    Catherine St in Invercargill also held special memories for her had a good “cobber” in that street and they would get on the tramcar to go and see the “talkies” (cinema).

    “The cost of the tramcar was three pennies and the pictures cost one shilling and sixpence.”

    Mrs Burgess-Matthews continued to lived on a farm after her first marriage to Tom Burgess, with whom she had four children and the late Miles and Collin.

    Gardening and taking care of the animals were big passions.

    “I had a lot of hens and ducks there as well.”

    In 1986, after her first husband passed away, she found love again and married Sam Matthews.

    “Now I have many grandchildren and great-grandchildren to keep me young.”

    One of her favourite things in life was dance her memories always bring her back to the days of hall dances.

    She celebrated many birthdays on the dancefloor, but this year, she will celebrate her birthday with a small tea party for friends and family at Vickery Court rest-home, where now she lives.

    Her daughter Dorothy Fleming, grandson Warren Burgess and daughter-in-law Heather Burgess said Mrs Burgess-Matthews was an inspiration to them.

    “She always knew what she wanted and she continued that way. She has a strong personality and teaches us to always be kind to others,” Mrs Fleming said.

    Mrs Burgess-Matthews was pleased to be able to experience so much love in her life from her family to her friends.

    When asked what the secret was to having a long and fulfilled life, she was honest.

    “I don’t have a clue, darling.”

    But her advice for the young generation was to be thoughtful of others and be positive, “and just keep going”.

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