Laughter the best medicine, says 100-year-old Gert

LAUGHTER is definitely the best medicine as far as one of Barnstaple s oldest residents is concerned - and even at 100 years old Eva Smith is determined to make the most out of life. Gert, as she is known to everybody, passed the century mark on Friday an

LAUGHTER is definitely the best medicine as far as one of Barnstaple's oldest residents is concerned - and even at 100 years old Eva Smith is determined to make the most out of life.

Gert, as she is known to everybody, passed the century mark on Friday and was joined by friends and family on Thursday at the Evergreen Club, a day centre run by Age Concern at Mill Court in Barnstaple.

Amazingly, she first joined the club in 1998 at the tender age of 89 as a volunteer helper and proceeded to give five years of active service, before becoming a member herself 2003.

In recognition of such service she was presented with a bouquet by Peter Sparkes, chairman of Age Concern Barnstaple, who was joined by the Mayoress of Barnstaple, Councillor Val Elkins, who also made a presentation on behalf of the town council.


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With her excellent memory and a wealth of stories, Gert is often called on at short notice to stand in if the Evergreen Club needs a speaker and her sense of humour not only makes these popular, but she believes could be the secret of her longevity:

"I always say I think it's because I have got such a sense of humour," she said.

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"I think that keeps you young and I can see the funny side of anything! I loved coming here and helping out, washing up or talking, I think it cheers the older people up and some of them need a chance to get out."

Born in 1909 when motor cars were still a complete rarity, the contrasts with Gert's life and those growing up today are amazing:

"When we were children we would go out and pick things off the hedges, because we were always hungry, all the kids in our street were. But I sometimes think that has had something to do with what makes me so healthy," she said.

"And I remember going on a trip once with my mother when I was four or five, and we went on a horse bus. It was really something to go on one of those, but there was only one horse and must have been eight people on the bus - I still feel sorry for that horse, especially as it rained all day!"

She lives in Barnstaple with her daughter Sylvia Wiseman and son-in-law Martin and keeps just as busy at home, says Sylvia:

"Mum still helps around the house, she does the washing up and all of my ironing - I'm not allowed to get near it!"

Gert was born in Southampton but lived much of her life in Surrey before retiring with husband Len to Port Isaac in Cornwall. The couple moved to live with Sylvia in Barnstaple when Len reached 90 and he passed away 14 years ago.

Gert worked as head cook at Woking Grammar School for Boys and although feeding 500 boys must have been a demanding job, she recalls her working life fondly.

The Second World War did not affect them as much as some, living in the country as they did, but the occasional reminder did appear:

"The closest I got to an air raid was one night when we'd taken our beds downstairs because we thought that was safer and they dropped an oil bomb (an incendiary) in the field opposite. That scared the life out of me," she said.

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