Anzac Day falls on the 100th birthday of local woman Elizabeth Barney.

The softly spoken centenarian was born in Auckland in 1916 to Kiwi parents and Irish grandparents.

Her family moved to Westport, in the South Island before moving back up to Hamilton where she attended primary school and then went on to technical college to learn to be a seamstress.

Once qualified, she and her sister worked for Embassy Gowns designing and sewing wedding gowns in Hamilton, which she loved.


"I could have exactly what I wanted [in a gown], what I imagine would come to life. I loved all doing handwork, the sewing, knitting, cross stitching."

During World War II she knitted balaclavas and scarves for the soldiers heading away to war.

In 1948 she moved to Tauranga after meeting her second husband George Barney. Today, she has seven grand children, eight great-grand children and three great-great-grandchildren.

Her last great-great-grandchild was only born about a month ago, so the pair are almost 100 years apart.

The Barney family had been living in the Te Puke since 1922 before opening the former general store, Barney's Supermarket, at the end of Victoria Rd in Mount Maunganui.

Mrs Barney said when she first moved to the Mount there were very few cars in the area.

"Tawa St was just a dirt track. There was no roading. The post was bought over to the Mount from Tauranga via the ferry."

Mrs Barney lost her husband in 1978.

She never remarried, but found a love for travelling and went all over the world.

Mrs Barney said the biggest difference today compared to her younger days was how everything was so much more accessible today.

"If you really want something, you can get it so easily today. If you wanted something back then - you would have to do it for yourself."

Her son Peter Barney said his mother always looked out for others needing help in the community until only a few years ago.

"She finds it hard. She is offered help now and often resists. She'd rather be on the giving end. She is very caring ."

Mr Barney said longevity ran in the family, with his mother's sister living until she was 109-years-old.

Mrs Barney's family would celebrate her big day with her today, by baking her a fruit cake.

What happened 100 years ago?

* 1916 was a leap year.

* The light switch was invented.

* The Boston Red Sox won the World Series.

* The first 40-hour work week officially began.

* The tallest building in the world was the Eiffel Tower.