Northland's oldest person has died in the Bay of Islands aged 109.
Lena Walker — who for several years also held the record for the oldest living New Zealand-born person — died peacefully on July 5 just three weeks after celebrating her latest birthday milestone.
With so many candles on her cake at her June 11 birthday party at Radius Baycare, in Haruru, the Paihia Fire Brigade was placed on standby in case of a conflagration.
Lena was farewelled at the resthome on Friday in a service for family and residents. Several spoke during the service and all wrote messages on her casket.
Born Evelyn Wilkinson on June 11, 1912, Lena only gave up her Paihia home and her driver's licence at the age of 103. She moved into Baycare in 2015.
In later life, her short-term memory declined but she was still able to get around with the help of a walker.
Lena could recall growing up in Shannon, a country town in Horowhenua district, more than 100 years ago and was one of only a handful of New Zealanders with memories of World War I.
She remembered travelling to Wellington with her parents to watch a parade of returning troops, and a party celebrating her uncles' homecoming from what was then regarded as ''the war to end all wars''.
Always independent, she landed her first job as a seamstress in Wellington at the age of 17.
Later she moved to Tauranga to help her older sister raise her children and met Vincent Walker at a dance in Mount Maunganui.
The couple moved to Northland around 1970 and built a house on Paihia's Kings Rd.
In 2019 Lena, then aged 107, was a guest of honour when Prince Charles and Camilla were welcomed at Waitangi. Her seat was directly behind the royal couple.
During her 108th birthday party, Lena told the Advocate she had never smoked or drunk alcohol — apart from the odd glass at Christmas — and had always kept good health.
Apart from that, however, she had no particular secret to longevity.
Grandson Paul Eley, of Whangārei, put her long life down to simple living.
She had always grown her own vegetables, made her own clothes, and never wanted a fuss.
Lena's positive attitude to life may have also played a part. For six years her peals of laughter echoed almost constantly through the resthome's corridors.
As Lena said in 2020: ''I've had a marvellous life really. I've enjoyed it.''
■ According to Gerontology Wiki, the oldest person in New Zealand is Canadian-born RNZAF veteran Ronald Hermanns of Canterbury who is 109 years and nine months old. Lena Walker was, however, the oldest New Zealand-born person.