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August 21, 2019

Doris Takes 100th Birthday In Her Stride

It may well be that Australians are living longer, but it’s still an incredible achievement to reach the milestone of 100 years old. Today Doris Feist, resident of RSL LifeCare’s Cherrybrook Gardens for the past 18 years, did just that.

Surrounded by family and friends she celebrated her 100th birthday with a Morning Tea Party in the sunny lounge room at Cherrybrook Gardens. “I haven’t given today a thought, it’s just something that’s happened!”

Born just one year after the end of the First World War, Doris grew up in North London with “a very strict upbringing; a very good upbringing.” She was a young married woman when the world went to war a second time, surviving the fear and devastation of the London bombings.

There’s no secret to a long and happy life. I just accept everything as it comes. I’m lucky that I’ve been healthy. I’ve got lots of friends to help me and a very wonderful family. If everybody had a family like mine, they’d be very fortunate.”

“I remember the bombing of London. It was tough, real tough. One day my husband and I, we had a big bay window where we lived and we were sitting there and out of the blue a Doodlebug came over.” (A German flying bomb with a high explosive war head, its engine caused a buzzing sound. It’s final descent to its target, however, was silent. The Doddlebug bombs were feared right across South East England in 1944.)

“You’d hear it and then, all of a sudden, it’d stop and you’d wonder where it was going to drop. But we didn’t know anything about this at the beginning. On this particular day we saw something out of the window with a flame at the back of it. It dropped on the house over the road and it blew the glass straight out of our window and into the chair where we had been sitting. Well that night we went into the other room and slept under the table because it was strong and we wanted to feel as safe as possible. It’s something you just don’t want to remember. They would drop and you’d wonder.”

In 1954 Doris, husband Gordon and their young daughter Pauline joined the throngs of Ten Pounds Poms and headed to Australia. “Australia badly needed immigrants and my husband badly wanted to live near the water.”

“We came over with my very good friend, her husband and their two children. It was hard to settle in, I hated it when I first came here. It was homesickness more than anything. We bought a block of land in Cabramatta near our friends, who were living in a hostel there. Gordon was never without work; he was a very good bricklayer and had plenty of work once we got here. After four years, however, I was so homesick that we went back to England, only to find that England wasn’t the same as I’d remembered. We gave it a go for two years but ultimately decided to come back to Australia. So, in 1960 we came back for good. We bought a block of land next to our friends who were now living in Canley Vale and built a house and a home for ourselves there.”

“When Gordon and I retired we moved to the South Coast and I got involved in the local Bowls Club, which I really enjoyed. We travelled everywhere too; it was beautiful.”

Doris isn’t the only resident of RSL LifeCare turning 100 this year. With over 20 residents reaching this significant milestone there will be plenty of opportunities to celebrate across our Villages and Care Homes.

Says Doris, “There’s no secret to a long and happy life. I just accept everything as it comes. I’m lucky that I’ve been healthy. I’ve got lots of friends to help me and a very wonderful family. If everybody had a family like mine, they’d be very fortunate.”

Story by Helen Johnston

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