From horse-drawn carts to electric cars, wind up telephones on the wall to the newest iPhone, Madeline Anderson had lived through it all in her 111 years on earth.

Anderson, who was believed to New Zealand's oldest living person, has passed away with her daughter Heather List by her side.

She was born in Baldwin St, Dunedin, in 1907, the eldest of four sisters.

Through her long life, she had seen many changes but had stories of her own connection to global events.


List said one of the most frequently asked questions by people about her age was what she ate.

"People often ask her what is the secret, she often says eat the vegetables and eats sweets and treats.

"She had a traditional growing up with roasts and apple pies and things like that."

Although none of her family was directly involved in World War I between 1914 and 1918 they helped provide supplies during a tumultuous harvest at their farm in Clinton, List said.

Her father being a farmer wasn't required to go to war, although he had fought in the Boer War in South Africa.

During the war, there was a severe weather event that flattened all of their crops.

"It got destroyed before it could be harvested, what mother did was invite some boys around to glean it."

She got these boys to pick up what was left, paying them with a meal.

Managing to salvage the harvest for some profit the family then bought vests for Kiwi soldiers.

"That was Mum's world war story."

Like her mother Madeline was late to marry, waiting until her 30s which was unusual during the period of the 1920s through to the 40s.

She was engaged to a man for around 10 years but the wedding never eventuated because there was not enough money as this was during the Great Depression.

She eventually met Heather's father and married soon after.

Another anecdote from her mother's life was recounted often now things were so different for medical events and emergency services, List said.

"When she was 10 or 12 she fell out of the gig [a horse-drawn cart with two wheels].

"She canned off when the horse stumbled and made a hell of a mess of her face. She was rushed to the hospital which in those days the fastest transport was a train."

"Then they got a ride from Dunedin Station to the hospital aboard a hansom cab."

"Mum was quite happy about that."

Upper Hutt woman Madeline Anderson, who died age 111, in a portrait with her late husband, Harry.
Upper Hutt woman Madeline Anderson, who died age 111, in a portrait with her late husband, Harry.

Although there were many fond memories and close calls, like many long lives there were times of tragedy.

Her son Brian was 7 when he was killed while riding a cycle.

A time later her son "in all but blood" Graeme was killed in a car crash at 20.

Graeme had been widely popular with the ladies and had ambitions to run a successful farm.

"It absolutely shattered us."

But reflecting on her mother's life List said despite crossing swords with her on occasion they were very close and she was a widely liked woman.

"She is such a lovely warm hearted person and she was never short of people to run messages for her, fill out her cards.

"She was inundated with birthday cards every year and she would always write back."