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Family and friends have helped Ethel Andrews celebrate her 100th birthday

ethel

GOOD FRIENDS: Ethel Andrews at her birthday party with Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer and, below and bottom, Ethol hams it up with the huge birthday cake.

Doncaster in Yorkshire and Whyalla in South Australia are miles apart in distance and commonalities but local resident Ethel Andrews quickly found a couple of simple similarities … family and community.

That family and community came together to celebrate a remarkable milestone for Ethel as she turned a spritely and feisty 100 years of age last week. There was a family party on Saturday and a community party held at the Whyalla Aged Care facility on Monday where Ethel was still going strong.

Ethel Ada Andrews is a gem and something everyone would wish for when they reach 100. Sharp as a tack, still quick with the wit and someone who so obviously loves life … it was a genuine pleasure for everyone who had the honour of sharing her birthday celebrations over the past week.

Ethel’s strength and resilience to reach this wonderful age in such good nick could be, in part, contributed to the journey that she and her family made from Doncaster in green England to brownish Iron Baron and eventually Whyalla.

Starting off in a migrant hostel in Adelaide in 1959 and staying in Adelaide for a short time as husband Jack worked in the city, the Andrews family moved to Iron Baron in 1960 after Jack scored a job as a diesel mechanic.

Ethel and Jack had six children – John, Betty, Robert, Alan, Edwin and Chris - with Betty staying behind in Adelaide after meeting her future husband and John staying in England to finish his apprenticeship and marry his fiancée.

ethelThe Eyre Peninsula mine must have seemed like moving to Mars for the Yorkshire natives but with Ethel at the helm, it was business as usual as they got down to making their new life.

“It was a great life,” son Alan said. “Mum and Dad made it like a home straight away and it was a wonderful childhood.

“We’d have picnics, go out exploring in the bush, make go-karts, catch rabbits and all the while mum and dad were there to support us.”

Ethel remembers those days clearly and says the key was a happy marriage, keeping busy and becoming involved in community.

“I had to keep busy, I had a husband and family to look after … I was busy every day,” Ethel said.

“I got involved in the community too and helped organise things so it was an interesting life.”

The family moved to eventual long-term home Whyalla in 1964 and the family and community mantra never wavered for Ethel. An accomplished pianist and singer with a beautiful soprano voice, Ethel also went to work at the hospital in catering.

Husband Jack unfortunately died in 2005 with Ethel leaving the family home in Klem Street shortly afterwards for a place in Whitehead Street until 2008 when she moved into a unit at Whyalla Aged Care. The story of family and community doesn’t stop there though with Ethel soon becoming a popular member of the aged care facilities’ community.

When asked about turning 100 and what her secret was, Ethel was quick off the mark while explaining that she never smoked or drank apart for the odd portagaff.

“Well, it’s an absolute bonus to reach 100,” she laughed.

“You’ve got to stay active to enjoy good health and keep your brain working.

“I like to stay involved in the community and I think I’m a bit like a Mother Teresa here,” she laughed.

“Everyone seems to come to me with their problems, they tell me all sort of things so I try to help but I always keep their trust.

“Everyone is so kind here and so friendly, it is a wonderful place.”

Ethel was joined by Whyalla Mayor and friend Lyn Breuer at her celebration on Monday. The pair first came to know each other when Ethel was involved, behind the scenes, in the local Labor Party and trade union movement.

“We all love Ethel, everyone in this room loves Ethel, she is an absolute character,” Mayor Breuer said at the party.

“Ethel was one of those people that came to Whyalla and helped shape Whyalla, she is salt of the earth and contributed so much to our community.

“Back when I was in parliament I became a good friend of Ethel … if I went to see her I knew I’d always have a good laugh and a good old yarn about politics.”

“I’m so grateful I’ve been able to maintain that friendship.”

Ethel said she’d known the Mayor for years and was glad she could make her party.

“I’m so glad she came along, she’s a real favourite of mine,” Ethel said.

“She works so hard and always helps out when she can.”

Complete with special tiara, Ethel was crowned “Queen for the Day” on Monday and said one of the highlights of her birthday was a receiving a card from Queen Elizabeth.

Ethel has 13 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren with another on the way.

“Don’t forget that one due in May,” Ethel quickly fired back.

“We’ve got another one in the pipeline,” she giggled.

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