Probably New Zealand's oldest woman
Died aged 109
There are no official records to indicate the country's oldest women. But family friend Percy Allison thinks Lena Ray, who died on the North Shore this week, was the oldest for about 30 days after the death of a woman in Christchurch.
Lena herself was unimpressed by such talk. On turning 108 last year she observed: "I don't care if I am. Anyway, what does it matter?"
More interesting was the fact that she reached such an age. When she was born at Inglewood in Taranaki in 1902 she weighed just 2.5 pounds (1.13kg) and was not expected to live.
The youngest of a family of four, "the scruffiest little thing", Mrs Ray told the Herald last year. "I was one of the most delicate little girls. My life was given up ... they thought I'd never live. And here she is still."
Her childhood, she said in 2007, was plagued by rheumatic fever (a serious illness then) and thyroid problems. Mrs Ray had no secrets to share on staying alive so long.
"I say rough it," she said. "Because I've had to rough it I have no way of telling anyone how to live a long time. That's in God's hands.
"You've got to be tough in this world and by Jove I've been tough."
There were no telephones or cars when she was growing up, just horses and bullock wagons pulled by cattle. Road building was in its infancy.
Mrs Ray's father managed workers employed building the main trunk railway line and the family travelled and lived in tents in rural Taranaki and elsewhere. Later she ran a shop in Westport and did accounts work in Auckland.
Mrs Ray and her husband Robert (deceased) had one son but she also cared for many local children and taught in secondary and primary schools. Her son Adrian predeceased her. Her funeral is being held in North Harbour on Monday.