Notching up a century

Norma has revealed the secrets to her longevity – staying on the move and indulging in a daily tipple.

The secrets to longevity

Belrose Country Club Retirement Village’s longest serving resident Norma Lyon – who celebrated her birthday earlier this month – makes sure she starts each day by dressing immaculately and putting on her “lippie”.

Norma at Belrose Country Club.

Norma, who also cooks her own meals and has her hair and nails done each week, says one secret to a long life is to “keep moving” and another is something a little more unconventional.

“I have one, and only one, gin and tonic at 5pm sharp every day,” she said.

Another ritual of Norma’s is her weekly game of scrabble with her daughter Deborah Mitchell.

“She is still sharp as a tack. Her competitive nature is still alive as she hates to lose,” Deborah said.

Norma marked her 100th birthday at a special morning tea with family and friends at Belrose. Her grandson played the piano at the celebration, and she was presented with a number of congratulatory letters including one from The Queen.

A life worth celebrating

Born on 16 July 1922, Norma Margaret Lyon (née Dench) spent her early childhood in Concord West where she and the other children in her neighbourhood would play marbles on the then quiet Concord Road.

She also remembers her Dad calling out ‘the baby’s here’ upon the birth of her sister Dorothy, who was cradled in the top drawer of a chest of drawers.

Norma attended Concord West Primary School and, after her family moved to North Strathfield, she went to Ashfield Intermediate Girls High School.

She never liked school much and her mother and father, who struggled throughout the depression, couldn’t really afford for her to keep studying.

So, at age 14, Norma left school and went to work at department store Mark Foy’s in the layby office where she met her future husband, John.

Norma would stay at her Aunty Wyn’s place at Bondi on the weekends, a seemingly cunning plan as John lived at Bondi.  The pair went to the movies and saw Bing Crosby sing ‘I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams’ in the movie ‘Sing You Sinners’ – and the rest is history.

A young Norma.

When World War II broke out, Norma, then aged 17, joined the voluntary aid division run by the Red Cross. It was the beginning of a lifetime of service that would include more than 40 years with charity Sydney Legacy, which she joined with John in 1953.

Norma was honourably discharged from the Army when she got married and became pregnant at age 21. Norma and John, who was deployed overseas with the Army at times, had three children together – Warwick, Beverley and Deborah.

Norma remembers picking up her discharge certificate and handing in her Army uniform while fully pregnant with Warwick.

“It turned out that I knew the fellow behind the counter who served me. He handed me the discharge certificate with the wording ‘medically unfit, not occasioned by her own default!’ she said.

Norma and John loved travelling and had many trips to Europe, Canada, Fiji and Africa. They also loved hosting glamorous parties and Norma always whipped up a beautiful dress for every occasion.

Norma – whose first memory was as a four-year-old going to hospital with a piece material, needle and a thread – has never stopped sewing. She’s made many magnificent wedding and bridesmaid dresses, and still knits for various charities.

Be part of a caring and supportive community

Norma’s wonderful knitting.

Norma has been living happily at the Belrose Country Club since 1988. She began living there with John in a two-bedroom unit. When Norma lost John, some years later, she moved into a care unit in the main building where she can get a little extra support, if she needs it.

“The staff are always so kind and caring,” Norma said.

“The level of care is superb. I feel happy, safe and secure at Belrose,” Norma said.

Deborah said her mum was delighted to be notching up a century.

“She was quite chuffed when she realised she was about to become an antique – just like an antique she is precious and valuable,” Deborah said.

“Happy 100th birthday to Norma – a mum, aunt, nan, grandnan and good friend to so many people.”


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