Family came from all over New Zealand and from Australia to help celebrate Ron Best's 100th birthday on Thursday.

The centenarian now lives at the Kamo Home after a long life mostly spent as a dairy farmer and pedigree jersey stock breeder at Otonga, just north of Hikurangi.

He moved to Whangārei many years ago before finally giving up independent living for resthome care.

As well as his four sons, Gavin, Hugh, Anthony and Gerald, Best's extended family includes their partners, 11 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. His wife Gwen died 25 years ago.

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Best moved to Northland in the 1940s where his sons were born. Hugh and Anthony now live in Whangārei, Gavin in Melbourne and Gerald in Napier. None went into farming.

Best was born in Palmerston North but spent his boyhood in the Waikato, where his own father worked in a flax mill.

Anthony Best said his father often joked about how remote and boring life in the flax swamps must have been, because there were 16 children in the family.

''We have 46 first cousins!''

With no electricity in the household, the highlight of Best's childhood was going into the nearest ''big'' town, Morrinsville, to look at the street lamps and shop lighting displays.

During World War II, he served overseas on Norfolk Island, in the New Zealand contingent supplying food, other goods and transit mainly to American troops fighting in the Coral Sea and Pacific.

He has always told the story about how he did fire some shots during the war, but only at sharks pinching his bait when he was fishing.

On Thursday, surrounded by his large family, including some of his own siblings, Best happily cracked jokes, received hugs and gifts and looked much younger than his 100 years might suggest.

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