At 105, Naomi Merrall, who died at Gracelands Rest Home in Hastings last Saturday, was one of Hawke's Bay's oldest residents who once said her secret to a long life had been good food with few preservatives.

"And the occasional treat."

She had been at Gracelands since 2015 and was the oldest resident there — and a popular one.

At her 103rd birthday party lunch with family at the centre diversional therapist Viv Harrison said she was "a joy to look after" and staff were proud to be part of her life.


"She had a fabulous life," her daughter Linda Williamson said.

"She was always very independent," she said.

Naomi was also very keen on engaging with others and loved a spot of bowls.

In her younger days she also loved dancing.

"She was a wonderful ballroom dancer, and I had a wonderful childhood because she was a most wonderful mum."

The memories her mother left people with were "so precious and so valuable" Williamson said, adding those memories had strengthened all those who had known her at this time.

Naomi Frances Merrall was born in Wellington on September 13, 1913 — in the year Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States and the first Ford Model T cars began rolling off the production line.

As a small girl, her family having shifted to Napier, she remembered travelling to Gisborne by boat because there were no roads.


She returned to Wellington when she was 10 and attended St Mark's Church before going on to Wellington East Girl's College and then to Gilby's Commercial College.

She met her late husband Aubrey while she was working in a shoe shop in Wellington and they married in 1940.

During the war she worked as a typist in the Census and Stats office in the capital and after Aubrey returned from service in the Pacific they moved to Hawke's Bay.

They bought a grocery store in Mahora in 1946 and settled into Hawke's Bay life.

Linda, their only child, was born six years later.

After eventually selling the shop they set up home in Mahora and Naomi lived there until moving into Gracelands in 2015.

She had been an avid and enthusiastic baker and cook, and enjoyed gardening, walking and a few games of indoor bowls.

At Gracelands she was also very much involved with activity session including crafts, bingo, singalongs and van outings.

She was also devoted to family and was a "loved nana" to three grandchildren and a great grandmother to one.

A service to celebrate the long life of Naomi is being held on Friday.