The staff at Northland Alzheimers have been telling day programme member Basil Sutcliffe for the past year that they are planning a party for his 100th birthday.

Yesterday they got to have that party - complete with cake, party hats, balloons, and crepe paper streamers.

Mr Sutcliffe or 'Bas' as he is known, celebrated the milestone with members of his family, friends and other members of the day programme.

Born on May 24, 1917 and originally from Wellington, Mr Sutcliffe and his family moved to Napier in 1954.

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He and his late wife Kath have two children, Graham and Brian, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"He worked in retail hardware most of his life," Graham said.

Mr Sutcliffe worked in Napier until he was 60, when he and Kath retired to Omokoroa, near Tauranga.

Kath died in 1996 and Mr Sutcliffe lived on his own for seven years, before making the move north to Whangarei in 2003 to be close to his son Graham and his family.

Graham said his father has been active in the local community since his move, becoming a member of the Kamo bowls 60-plus group, the Whangarei Pakeke Lions Club and the Post Polio Group - Mr Sutcliffe contracted Polio as a toddler, but made a full recovery.

Mr Sutcliffe was a member of the NZ Army and fought in World War II from 1940 to 1944. He served in Egypt, Syria, Greece and Italy.

Graham said his father has had Alzheimer's for about six years, but due to the nature of the disease it was impossible to pinpoint exactly when it started.

Graham said he had asked his father what the secret to a long was in recent years. "He just said he was lucky.

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"He never saw the inside of a hospital until he was a ripe old age."

Mr Sutcliffe only takes one pill a day and is otherwise on no medication. However, Graham said his eyesight and hearing were both poor.

He attends the day programme at Alzheimers Northland three days a week, but otherwise still lives at home.

Graham said the triple figure birthday sort of crept up on the family.

"I don't think it's really sunk in."

He said his father has been "quite chuffed" as the cards from the Queen, Bill English and others have rolled in.

"It is an achievement, I am proud of the old fella."

Northland Alzheimers day centre co-ordinator Aleisha Dobson describes Mr Sutcliffe as a "real character".

"Bas is such a lovely gentleman to have in our club, he has a great sense of humour."