A woman who was born on the ninth day of the ninth month in 1919, and was the 19th child of 19, has celebrated her 100th birthday in Slinfold.
Clare Wills, who often talks about her birthday in terms of nines, was joined by friends and family for her special day on Monday, September 9, at Wellcross Grange nursing home where she has been a resident for just over a year.
Before moving to Slinfold, Clare lived alone in her Storrington home after moving there from Devon at the start of the century.
Clare has been a strong lady through many difficult times including caring for many family members, some with terminal illnesses.
Terry Wills, Clare’s son, said: “During the war years, she carried out ‘a man’s work’ in a milk factory in Devon. She was frequently complemented on her hard endeavours.
“She was married to Doug in 1942 and spent most of the war not knowing whether he was dead or alive. Doug was one of many trapped at Anzio Beach under heavy bombardment for several months.
“Doug’s war experiences had a profound impact on his mental health and he had a major breakdown a few years later.
“When told that he would be institutionalized for the rest of his life, she refused to accept it and insisted that he returned home with her.
“There, despite having to keep down a number of jobs and look after a young child, she eventually nursed him back to full health.”
Now in her centenary, Clare is in reasonable physical heath, albeit wheelchair bound, and she shas mild vascular dementia.
For her party, the chef at Wellcross Grange laid on a special birthday cake for Clare which she enjoyed with her guests, which saw four generations of the family coming together.
Despite the large family of her birth, just five people make up the four generations – Clare, her son Terry, 72, grandson Christopher, 35, and great-grandsons Jasper, six, and Stewie, four, who are Warnham CE Primary School pupils.
Son Terry said: “Jasper and Stewie have an unusual ‘claim to fame’ of attending two one-hundreth great-grandmother birthday parties in a short period.
“On December 31, 2018, they were in Long Island, USA, celebrating their maternal great grandmother Rose’s 100th birthday.”
Among Clare’s many birthday cards was one from the Queen, as well as a telegram signed by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Terry said: “This could be a collector’s item as Amber Rudd had resigned from the position on September 7!”