"Not another one from the jolly old Queen!"

You know Lena Walker's had a lot of birthdays when that's her response to a card from Buckingham Palace.

Mrs Walker, who turned 107 on Tuesday, is thought to be Northland's oldest resident, and one of very few New Zealanders who can recall the troops coming home from World War I.

She celebrated her birthday at Haruru Falls with a morning tea shared with residents of Radius Baycare and lots of hugs from her little friends from the Paihia Early Childhood Centre.


The event was, as always, punctuated by her frequent peals of laughter, which have echoed around the rest home since she had to give up driving and her own home at the tender age of 103.

Much of the great-great-grandmother's family lives overseas these days, but they were represented by grandson Paul Eley, from Whangārei.

"She just keeps going, she's always walking up and down the corridors," he said.

Former neighbour Garth Craig, from Paihia, believed positivity was a key factor in her longevity.

"She's always had a very positive outlook. She's got a good giggle, she's always laughing," he said.

Baycare manager Pam Hughes said Mrs Walker was a hit with the children from the nearby pre-school, who were regular visitors at the Radius rest home.

"She loves music and she absolutely adores the kids coming in. She's Nanny Lena to them all," she said.

Grandson Paul Eley, of Whangarei, shows Lena Walker a birthday card. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Grandson Paul Eley, of Whangarei, shows Lena Walker a birthday card. Photo / Peter de Graaf

While the 107-year-old maintained she didn't want a fuss she clearly enjoyed the party, especially the singing and cuddles from her young visitors.


Mrs Walker was born Evelyn Wilkinson on June 11, 1912, in Shannon, Manawatu. Her oldest memories include catching the train to Palmerston North for shopping, a parade through Wellington for troops returning from World War I, and a party her mother organised to celebrate her uncles' homecoming from what was supposed to be the war to end all wars.

After a stint as a Sunday school teacher the young Lena left home at the age of 17, against her father's wishes, and landed a job in Wellington as a seamstress.

Later she moved to Tauranga to help her older sister with her children, and met Vincent Walker at a dance in Mount Maunganui. They married and moved to Paihia around 1970, building their own home on Kings Rd.

When she was in her late 80s, after her husband died, she sold her belongings, put her house on the market and moved to Australia, before eventually returning to Paihia.

She fractured her hip at the age of 104, but was back up and walking within a week.

Her latest birthday greeting from Her Majesty has joined the six already displayed in her room, along with dozens of cards from prime ministers, governors-general, MPs, relatives and her pre-school friends.