Ron Maskell had two wishes for his 100th birthday - a letter from the Queen and a party. He got both, at Switzer Residential Care in Kaitaia, on Monday.
Her Majesty ("She's very much like my mum") wasn't the only one to send her best wishes. He also received cards from Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ("I like her"), Auckland Mayor Phil Goff ("I like him too") and others, while his party was shared with family including his four children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Ron was born in Auckland on January 4, 1921, and lived there for much of his life, working as a builder. His wife Noeline had a lifelong friend in Joan Wagener, from Pukenui, however, and he vowed to move there when he retired.
He and Noeline, who died in 2009 aged 86, did just that, Ron building a home at the top of Fitzgerald St.
He was to build a second home there before he downed his tools, his eldest child, Lynda Maskell, saying he and his late brother, his only sibling, also built a yacht. He later built another one, and two power boats, and two one-man FireBug sailing dinghies, while much of her own furniture had been crafted by him.
Her dad could also claim to be one of very, very few World War II veterans who were still alive, "perhaps the last man standing."
He began his service in the Pacific, but later joined the NZ Division of the British 8th Army in Italy, right through to the Axis capitulation in Trieste, as a despatch rider, with the rank of corporal. Having been offered the choice of a motorbike or a jeep, the young petrol head had plumped for the latter.
He also had the distinction of having been captured, briefly, by the Russians, who did not recognise the New Zealand flashes on his shoulders. He had been taken to a prison camp, where the German occupants, who disabused his captors, regarded his predicament as a huge joke.
He had initially set out to join the Navy, Lynda said, but he was partially colour blind, and was rejected. The ship he would have joined had he been accepted was subsequently sunk.
Meanwhile, Ron said deep breathing and honesty were the keys to living a long life, a philosophy that has obviously serve him well (although his genes might play a part too, his uncle Alf making 104). Once he had his hearing aid installed properly he enjoyed his celebration immensely, and extinguished the candles on his cake with one hearty blow.
He was being well looked after at Switzer, he said, with a "nice" room, and the blessing of a "great" family.
The party, Lynda added, had been something of a team effort.
"People have been so kind, giving us flowers, the cake, decorating," she said.
"And the staff here (at Switzer) have been just amazing."