Lena Walker remembers catching a train to Wellington to welcome soldiers coming home from the war.

She doesn't mean the Vietnam War. She doesn't even mean World War II.

Mrs Walker, who turns 105 tomorrow, is one of a tiny number of New Zealanders who can remember World War I.

She still recalls, as if it was yesterday, standing by the roadside and waving as returning soldiers marched past in 1918.

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Now living at Radius Baycare in Haruru Falls she was born Evelyn Ellinor Wilkinson on June 11, 1912 in Shannon, which she describes as "a lovely little country town" in Manawatu. She was the second of three children.

Her parents owned the picture theatre where her mother played the piano during silent movies and the young Lena sold icecreams.

After a stint as a Sunday school teacher she left home against her father's wishes at the age of 17, displaying the independent spirit that has never left her.

She moved in with an aunt in Wellington and got a job on Cuba St sewing skirts and blouses. She was still making her own skirts a few years ago.

Later she moved to Tauranga, to help her older sister with her children, and met Vincent Walker at a dance in Mt Maunganui.

They married and moved to Paihia around 1970, building their own home on Kings Rd. She had no children of her own but has a number of stepchildren.

When she was in her late 80s, after her husband's death, she sold her belongings, put her house on the market and moved across the Tasman - until she decided she didn't like Australia after all.

She returned to her home in Paihia, only giving up driving and moving in to a resthome at the age of 103.

Mrs Walker's hearing is no longer the best and her memories are becoming muddled but she is still in good spirits with a loud, boisterous laugh that echoes frequently down the resthome hallways.

She has a stepsister in Wellington, a stepdaughter in New York, a stepdaughter and a niece in Australia, and a stepgrandson in Whangarei. She will celebrate her birthday today with friends, a few family members and Baycare staff.

When she was born powered flight was still in its infancy; today her card from the Queen will be delivered by drone.

• Lena Walker is one of just an estimated 40 New Zealanders aged 105 or older. Another Northlander, Bill Tuckey of Rawene, turned 105 in April.