Joy Marbeck has lived through two world wars, the Spanish flu epidemic and the Great Depression and says it is her "never give up" attitude that has carried her to her 101st birthday.

Born in 1915, Mrs Marbeck has lived through some of the most tumultuous times in recent history, but has never lost her "quirky" sense of humour.

One of her fondest memories while growing up in Henderson was of her pony Nudger, which carried her to and from Swanson School as a child, named for his habit of coming up to people and nudging them.

Her parents were some of the original settlers in West Auckland, giving Ranui its name, and were also the first people in the district to own a car - a Buick that "terrified" her mother.


A bright girl, Mrs Marbeck, nee Cutler, went to Auckland Girls' Grammar School where she gained matriculation, but she was unable to go to university because the Great Depression meant she needed to get a job and help earn money for her family.

She got a job as a clerk at PR Colebrook and remembers having to write letters for her boss. "It was a good job. He couldn't write a business letter to save his life - but I could."

After three years, Mrs Marbeck had been promoted to chief clerk, but left her job to marry her husband Harold Marbeck in 1937, aged 22.

It was a sad time for the young woman, who had only weeks before lost her father to leukaemia.

"I had a lovely father," Mrs Marbeck said. "I put him to bed for the last time. I put him into his pyjamas and put him into bed. He didn't wake up the next day."

Mrs Marbeck remembers her wedding dress, a long satin piece she thought was "very pretty", with a trailing bouquet.

Mr Marbeck was an engineer in the standing army, so the newlyweds moved to Takapuna.

The couple had four daughters together, Alison and Maureen born during the war, followed by Christine and Tessa.

After the girls had grown up, Mrs Marbeck began breeding dogs - a small breed called a Japanese chin dog. She used to take the dogs all over the country to shows and won many awards.

"They were very clever little dogs. I imported them to get the breeds pure."

Later in their life, the couple moved to Mangatangi, which is where they were living when Mr Marbeck died in 1988.

Mrs Marbeck later moved to Tauranga. She lived in her Bellevue home until a year-and-a-half ago, when, aged 99, she injured her hip and had to move out - a decision she did not want to make, but felt happy about after realising how happy she could be at Radius Matua.

Her daughter Tessa always remembers coming home from school and seeing her mother bent over her garden - "always with her fuschias".

"She was pretty devoted to us, I remember her getting up before daylight to make cakes for a bake sale. She's a hard worker."

Christine remembers her mother presenting beautiful hand-made clothes to her children after they gave birth to their own children.

Mrs Marbeck now has 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Her sister Iris and brother Gordon are both gone now, making her the last one of her generation.

"I think I'm the last of the Mohicans.

"You can't give up, you've just got to keep going."