Jean Chitty might be 100 years old but she knows she loves netball, wishes she could still play cards and doesn't particularly like wrestling or John Key.

She doesn't remember the day that Great Britain declared war on Germany to start World War I - but then she was only a few hours old having been born on August 4, 1914.

The sprightly Jean celebrated her birthday at Selwyn Park retirement village in Whangarei yesterday.

A wall of cards lined a table in the homestead, where family and friends gathered. Signatories included Peter Dunne, Phil Heatley, Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, John Key and Her Majesty The Queen, who signed her card "Elizabeth".


Jean has five children, 14 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.

Daughter of farmer William and teacher Gertrude Harper, Jean inherited her mother's love of education, a devotion that resulted in her becoming head girl at Pukekohe High in Auckland, where she met and fell in love with head boy Gilbert Chitty.

"We both loved our studying," she said when asked how Gilbert caught her eye.

Jean later discovered that Gilbert's father Joseph Chitty (26) had been killed in action during the first day of the Battle of Messines June 7, 1917.

A member of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 4th Battalion - he left behind his wife Lilla Jane Chitty, and three children.

Joseph, who was born in Surrey in England, and Lilla had lived in Northland working on a farm at Titoki just before the war.

Jean and Gilbert married in Auckland when they were both 21.

Jean said there was no secret to her longevity. But not drinking beer helped.


"I only drink on special occasions. We were just ordinary people. I never smoked and I loved sport."

Sadly, her sight has deteriorated which means she can no longer play cards. She still watches TV - mostly netball and rugby.

"I don't like boxing or wrestling though ... oh no."

She's not a fan of John Key either, although she was grateful the Prime Minister had sent her a birthday card.