This Christmas Day is an extra special one for a Rotorua man and his family, as they also celebrate his milestone birthday.

Noel Peterson turns 100 tomorrow at a surprise celebration with family.

He was born in Mokauiti, in the middle of the King Country, in 1918.

In his younger days he spent several years as a theatre projectionist, and was also an apprentice pharmacist.

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Peterson is a World War II veteran and served from 1939 to 1945. He was in the 23rd Division and was stationed in the Pacific in Suva, Fiji.

When he returned he was stationed at Hobsonville for the New Zealand Royal Air Force.

Peterson then went on to start his own business as a sign writer and interior decorator, before working for British Imperial Paints as a manager and doing problem solving all over the North and South Islands.

He married his wife Helga Peterson - who was a trained opera singer - in 1941 and they were married for 64 years, though were together for 68 years.

He said they got married in the morning and then at the end of the day he had to leave to continue his World War II service, and it was four years later that they next saw each other.

The pair met when his boss sent him out to a job as an apprentice, and he made Helga's family an ornate glass sign for their homestead.

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"I thought she was the most gorgeous creation on the face of God's Earth."

They went on to have a family with four children - Vern, Stephanie, Warwick and Tanya.

Peterson has also had and been involved in many hobbies over the years.

He was very involved with the Pony Club and Trekking Club, serving as treasurer, and was made a life member.

Peterson started playing indoor bowls about 30 years ago at the Salvation Army before joining the RSA Indoor Bowls and Rotorua Club.

He was also an artist and painted.

When asked how he felt to be turning 100 he said he did not feel any different.

Peterson's daughter, Tanya Peterson, said she believed the secret to her father reaching the 100-year milestone was that he had always kept active and had a simple and healthy diet.

"It's the exercise and the company that has kept him to this age."

Peterson said he also thought it was important to have a high level of interest in everything you did and to keep your mind active.