Love and good genes the key

By Peter de Graaf

Ask 100-year-old Clarice McLean her secret to longevity and you won't get many surprise answers: Eat healthily, lay off the drink and smokes, be kind to others and stick with your family. Son Royce McLean said good genes had something to do with it - one of her aunts had lived to 108 - but it was mainly her great attitude to life.

"She's always smiling. That and the love that's wrapped around her, with her sisters and extended family all up here, and a wonderful rest home. This is the result," he said.

Mrs McLean celebrated her 100th birthday with afternoon tea at Kerikeri Retirement Village on Friday with her sisters, three children and a smattering of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The big party was due to be held yesterday with at least 50 friends and family members coming from as far away as Christchurch.

She was born in 1913 in what was then farmland but is now the Auckland suburb of St Heliers. Her oldest memories are of riding to school on horseback with four kids squeezed on to the same horse. She recalls the horse taking a tumble one morning - the girls carried on to school regardless, the boys went howling back to mum.

She married Alex "Mac" McLean in the late 1930s and had three children. They went on to produce six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

When her kids were at school, she went to classes, studying everything from cake-making and hairdressing to woodwork, and became a whiz at ten-pin bowling.

She was a keen motorist, in an era when woman drivers were rare, and owned a succession of cars. Her grandchildren knew her as Nana Rocket for the way she drove her Skoda.

Mrs McLean retired to Waiheke Island after her husband's death in 1974. Later, determined to stick together, she and three sisters - Doris, 97, Elsie, 93, and Phylis, 87 - moved to Kerikeri Retirement Village. Jean, 91, lives in Rotorua.

Friday's celebration included a singalong, cake, cards from the Queen and the Prime Minister, and a grand entrance on a brightly decorated golf cart.

- Northern Advocate

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