May Donald can remember when it was her father's job to stamp the cheeses leaving by boat from the port of Patea.

She was born in 1914 and celebrates her 102nd birthday today, with a family afternoon tea at Edale Home in Marton.

Born in Patea, she was one of six children. She went to school there and to Hawera High School. After school she worked as a dental assistant in Patea, before marrying Harold Donald, a railway worker.

They moved to Whanganui and lived in Ingestre St. Then they moved to Ohura and finally to Marton in 1942. Mrs Donald was in her late 20s at the time, and has been there ever since - 74 years.

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"You go where the money and work is," she said.

But she does have a special connection with Marton - her grandfather Robert Signal was an early settler there.

She and Harold had five children. She remembers using coupons to buy sugar during World War II.

"You had to have so many coupons for sugar, and some for different items that we used."

They did not have to buy eggs as she kept chickens. The two always had a large vegetable garden and grew fuchsias and chrysanthemums for pleasure.

Mrs Donald sewed the children's clothes, knitted, crocheted and was a good cook.

She also played cards, and Housie in Marton, Whanganui, Feilding and Palmerston North. Her biggest Housie win was in Whanganui - $1000.

Her husband died in 1972, and at age 100 she was still living in her own flat on the Edale grounds.

She had been inside the home for the past 18 months, but still knits and shares jokes with the nurse who helps her take a shower.

It may not have been dramatic, but it was a pretty good life, her daughter Diane said.

"She enjoyed gardening and things around the home and didn't go anywhere much."

Mrs Donald attributes her long life partly to luck - but also to healthy living with no smoking or drinking.