Newspaper Article 2015 – Valda’s Century Secret

Valda’s century secret

‘I take life as it comes’


It might seem a bit of a mystery to many of us how some people manage to make it to 100. Valda Colwill is under no illusion how she got there.

“It just happened – I’ve done nothing special. I’m always busy, never idle.”

Perhaps that is part of the secret as to how this sprightly Hastings resident has sailed through life in relatively perfect health, still lives in her own home and drives herself about in her own car, sometimes to visit her friend Muff in Hunterville.

“I go here and there, everywhere I want to go,” Valda says.

You might also catch Valda pottering in her immaculate garden. She describes herself as a ‘necessary gardener”

“I’m not a keen gardener but it’s got to be looked after.

Everything I’ve got has to be looked after and treated properly.”

Valda may have inherited that sense of pride from her grandfather Sam Tong, who was the first superintendent of the Hastings Fire Service.

Fighting fires ran in the family, with her father and two brothers following suit. Valda’s maiden name Tong is well known in Hawke’s Bay – her grandfather also began the funeral directory S T Tong – Cabinetmaker and Undertaker in 1878. Valda says her Uncle Ossie “branched off” to start the business we still know today as Tong & Peryer.

Valda spent most of her working life in clerical work, her first job on trial with the Public Trust before moving on to work at Wilsons’ Nurseries, Hawke’s Bay Farmers and Murray Roberts. She later worked for the A&P Society, playing an important role in organising the annual shows, even being called back for six-week stints each year following retirement.

Valda was married to Reg for 43 years. They have one daughter who lives in Christchurch and is a dog breeder and international dog show judge. Reg died in 1983. “I didn’t have time to remarry.”

Valda also squeezes a fair bit of knitting into her busy life. She says there’s always knitting to be done.

“I knit for whoever’s passing by whoever it fits.”

Games of Mahjong with a bunch of players at the Masonic Village may have fallen by the wayside for now, although she is not ruling out rejoining.

“I might start again soon – I have Saturdays free.”

Having a good night’s sleep could also help account for her longevity – “I go to sleep as soon as my head touches the pillow.”

Once a week, Valda and niece Marie Dunlop drive over to EIT where they have their hair done by hairdressing students. “One week I drive, the other week Marie drives.”

Valda doesn’t pay much attention to dietary trends.

“I’ll have sugar on anything and alcohol if I feel like it. I like what I like – I’m fussy. As long as it’s sweet. It’s got to be to my liking.”

Friends and family will be joining Valda for a celebratory lunch on her birthday. She has a simple philosophy for a long life.

“I don’t feel lucky. I accept things. I take life as it comes. That’s all you can do.”

Photo caption – Happy days: Valda Colwill will be turning 100 on December 4.

Original digital file


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Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

18 November 2015


Hastings Leader


  • Reg Colwill
  • Valda Colwill
  • S T Tong
  • Ossie Tong
  • Brenda Vowden

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