By Graham Skellern
Tauranga's oldest person, Mahala Sadler, has died peacefully while a fellow rest home resident quietly read the Bible to her.
She died on Saturday morning, aged 109.
"She didn't quite make it to 110," said Junko Drake, a registered nurse at the Metlifecare Somervale Retirement Village at Bayfair.
Mrs Sadler - who was born in Norfolk, England, in 1896 - celebrated her 109th birthday on September 28 after spending nearly 20 years at the retirement village.
Mrs Sadler, who had failing eyesight, told the Bay of Plenty Times on the eve of her last birthday: "I don't know whether I'll be here for my 110th - but my doctor tells me if I keep as well as I am there is no reason why not."
Mrs Drake said Mrs Sadler gradually deteriorated over the past month. Her mobility decreased and she was read the Bible every day.
She could get up and sit in her favourite armchair in her room during the day but in the past week she was bedridden, said Mrs Drake.
"Mahala was a role figure for all the other residents. She was very respected and her mind was so alert. During activity time she would always get the best results in the quiz."
Somervale has 20 rest home residents and 20 hospital patients.
On birthdays, Mrs Sadler enjoyed her favourite breakfast of salmon and scrambled eggs, and at lunch with residents she indulged in a glass of champagne.
Mrs Sadler outlived her three younger sisters, a brother and her husband Len, who died in 1974 at the age of 74.
She was brought up on a family crop farm in Norfolk and arrived in New Zealand with Len in 1924.
They farmed near Levin, Feilding and at Ohakea, and Len also had a spell as an engineer with Manawatu County Council. When her husband died, Mrs Sadler moved to Tauranga.
Her daughters - Lorna, who lives in Napier, and Shirley, from Otumoetai - were today making funeral arrangements.
Mrs Sadler had five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
By Graham Skellern