If you ever wondered what Hawke's Bay looked like 70 years ago, and how it's changed since, Havelock North local Joan Ellen Padman is your woman.

Born in Wellington in 1917, Ms Padman (nee McLennan) has lived in Hawke's Bay since 1947 and will celebrate her 100th birthday with family tomorrow.

Throughout her life she has been the mother of three children, a church elder and keen sportswoman, tennis and golf being her sports of choice.

The second child to Harry and Alice McLennan, she was educated at Clyde Quay Primary in Mt Victoria and then Wellington Girls Tech.

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After leaving school she worked as a clerk for Wellington shipping agent Blue Star Line and went on to marry Noel Padman in 1939 after World War II broke out.

Now residing at Waiapu House in Havelock North, the centenarian enjoys her days taking walks and keeping an eye on the happenings of the resthome.

"I couldn't have chosen a better home. I do a bit of investigating around the place, there's not much I don't know about."

After she married Noel, her husband enlisted in the Air Force and was posted to Woodbourne Air Force base outside Blenheim, where the couple remained for the war's duration.

After he was released from the Air Force in 1946 the Padmans, who by then had two young children, moved to Havelock North the following year and took up residence in Knox Rd (now McHardy St).

Noel set up Lockyers Electrical on Heretaunga St, Hastings, with an Air Force colleague.

A third and final child entered the fold in 1950 and attended Havelock North Primary School, which then educated students from Year 1 to Year 8.

Ms Padman's community spirit came to the fore when she and several other village residents saw the need for a kindergarten in the area.

She threw herself into fundraising and securing voluntary trade help for the building of a kindergarten on Napier Rd in 1953, and went on to become the first chairwoman of the Havelock North Free Kindergarten Association.

She was parish secretary for St Columbas Presbyterian church and then a church elder.

A keen sportswoman, she loved to swim and play tennis in her younger years before following Noel's interest in golf when the family moved to Hawke's Bay.

"My favourite pastime was mainly exercise. I was never a good performer but I always enjoyed it, especially out at the golf club," she said.

The Padmans joined the Hastings Golf Club in Bridge Pa and the centenarian's obvious governance and charitable inclination were soon recognised by the club when she became a part of the committee, and eventually the president.

Her services to the club were acknowledged when she was bestowed a life membership, an accolade Noel was also given.

Keeping active was still a focus for her in later years when she played bridge at a top level. As age began to wear her body, she traded golf for bowls and took up a membership at the Havelock North Bowls Club.

Noel passed away aged 79 in 1995 and Ms Padman went on to bear the loss of one of her sons, Garth, in 2005.

Her daughter, Lynne McQuade, and son, Howard Padman, often visit her in Waiapu, along with the six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Ms Padman said she was very excited to celebrate her birthday with family tomorrow.