Barbara’s 100 but celebrating far away

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Queenstown’s longest-lived resident turns 100 next Wednesday, away from her hometown of 99 years.

Fourth-generation local Barb­­ara Lewis will celebrate with 50 relatives and friends over an afternoon cuppa at Cromwell’s Ripponburn Hospital & Home.

Son Eon, 74, says his mother can’t talk and her hearing and sight are fading but she’ll “hopefully enjoy [the celebration] and realise what it’s all about”.

Barbara has outlived husband Les and their other child, Roy, and has seven grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

The centenarian-to-be – born on a farm near Coronet Peak in 1909 – has shifted more in the past two years than over the past century.

She moved to the Wakatipu Home for the Elderly in mid-2007. Her condition deteriorated and she was sent to Invercargill’s Rowena Jackson Retirement Village last October – because Lakes District Hospital’s six elderly-care beds were full.

Five months ago, a vacancy opened up at Ripponburn and Barbara moved closer to home, Eon says.

Barbara Lewis grew up in Queenstown and worked as secretary for the Kawarau Falls dam project, and then as assistant town clerk, electricity meter reader and an Earnslaw steam­ship hostess. She also ran Lewis’s general store in The Mall.

Grand-daughter Helen Lewis says Barbara’s family will have a meal at Tatler restaurant – the site of her old store – on Wednesday night.

Fellow long-time local Iris O’Connell turned 100 in Dunedin six months ago, after also being deported in December 2007 because of overflowing LDH beds.