In this Our People summer special we salute the remarkable woman who turned 105 this week and continues to retain her independence
For most of us, celebrating Christmas, New Year and the new decade it's introduced has been quite enough excitement to carry us forward for another 12 months.
Not so for Elsie Hay.
On Monday she turned 105, a milestone that's brought a second congratulatory card from the Queen. The first, from the woman who's 12 years her junior, came on her 100th birthday.
But wait there's more - and it's not of the conventional cliché kind.
This truly remarkable woman remains living independently in her own home, albeit with the comfort of knowing her son and daughter-in-law are her immediate neighbours.
They sure don't make 'em like Elsie any more.
She walks unaided and, apart from her hearing not being what it once was, plus a botched cataract op robbing her of sight in one eye, Elsie is fitter than many of those way younger than her.
Other than giving birth, she's only spent one night in hospital - being treated for a minor infection.
As for that mind of hers, it's razor-wire sharp. If she can't exactly recall when or how certain events occurred her stock answer's "well dear, it was a very long time ago".
From failing School Cert to a New Zealand Order of Merit
So long ago that when Elsie was born World War I was a mere five months old, cars remained a relative rarity and much of New Zealand was still to be connected by railway.
Elsie knows all about railways – her dad, Walter Inder, was a pioneering railwayman, moving his family from one remote settlement to another as he and his cobbers laid the line connecting Napier and Gisborne.
That followed his time serving king and country on battlefields a world away from his homeland.
Elsie doesn't know where he served. Like so many who returned from the front, her father never spoke of his war years, he simply got on with making New Zealand a better place for the generations to come, and in his family, there have been plenty of them.
One of eight, Elsie's school years were spent in Napier but terminated when she was 12.
"Dad was shifted further down country so that was the end of my education, back then very few girls went on to big [secondary] school, you were just put out to work."
Elsie's first job was looking after the children of Napier's Bank of New Zealand manager.
That was until her mother produced another baby and summoned her home to Kotemuri to care for her brothers and sisters while she was in the nursing home, as maternity hospitals (now birthing units) were then called.
The timing may well have saved Elsie's life. Kotemuri was 72km southeast of Napier, sufficiently far away not to be caught in the midst of the February 3, 1931 earthquake that decimated the coastal town.
Elsie may have escaped the epicentre but will never forget the ground heaving around her.
"It just shook and shook and shook for days afterwards, we could see the redness of the sky as Napier burned.
"Dad made us sleep in a tent, it wasn't like tents you get today, just a piece of tarpaulin tied to the fence, we slept out there for weeks because the ground kept shaking."
Elsie guesstimates she was 16 or 17 when she returned to the recovering Napier and another child minding job.
But adventure was on the horizon. A close friend wasn't very well and it was suggested she go to Taupo "for the warm water".
She asked Elsie to go with her. "I hadn't even heard of Taupō, we went on the service car [bus], and got housekeeping jobs at the Spa Hotel, we learnt pretty quick."
A workmate invited them to a marae dance. "Her brother Gordon Hay drove us there, I'd never been on a marae before, it was way out in the bush and scrub. When a fight broke out I asked him to take me back to Taupō."
And that, as the song goes, was the start of a great romance.
Elsie and Gordon married in Napier before settling at Oruanui in a tiny home on whanau land. Gordon worked in the bush, clearing land for roads. "There were only dirt tracks then."
When the world was again at war Gordon joined the Home Guard, based in Hamilton.
"He'd come home once a month, it took a day to get home, a day to get back so we only had a day together."
His bush experience led to him being drafted into a sawmill owned by the Tunnicliffe family "out past Putaruru".
"Then we moved to Rotoehu where Tunnicliffe's had another mill, we had our four boys while living there, our girl Yvonne was born when we lived in Oruanui.
"When I went into labour with the boys I'd have to come into Rotorua in the middle of the night in a rattly old truck. Until we got a car we had to rely on the boss for transport."
The Hay family home was a mill house in the middle of a clearing "with the lake just across the road".
"It was pretty quiet until Vic Tunnicliffe built the hall then we had a lot of dances there, played cards, started a Country Women's Institute (CWI), I was a member for 20 years. We did all the things people think are old fashioned today but we had a lovely life, made marvellous friends."
When the Rotoehu mill closed - "they ran out of trees" - Gordon was transferred to Edgecumbe as mill foreman. Elsie admits she was never really happy living on the plains.
"They flooded a lot ... I didn't want to go in the first place."
Gordon's health began to fail, and their children had left home so the decision was made to move to Rotorua. In 1973 the couple bought a house in Davidson St and Elsie decided the time had come for her to experience life outside domesticity.
For the next however many years (no one's exactly sure of the tally) she was tea lady at the borough council offices "next to where Spotlight is now".
When the borough and city councils amalgamated Elsie moved into retailing, "'working in a pottery shop in Eruera St".
Their Rotoehu link remained, they'd acquired a bach there. "It was left over from the mill days, we had really happy family times there."
In 1980 Gordon suffered a stroke. Elsie nursed him until a few months before his death nine years later.
During her allocated respite downtime when others cared for Gordon, she and close friends Clarice Cunningham and Mona Budge made regular overseas trips.
"I hadn't been out of the country until I was in my sixties, now I've been to Japan, Singapore, Norfolk Island, Perth, to several Pacific Islands and on cruises."
Her travels continued after her husband's death. "Gordon was a homebody, he preferred trout fishing to travel."
After her husband's death, Elsie moved into her present thermal unit over the fence from son Lindsay and daughter-in-law Shona Hay.
"I'm not shifting - without them, I wouldn't be here."
Cue the time to ask the hoary old question Our People most hates - the one where journalists routinely quiz centenarians to what they attribute their longevity.
Elsie saves us the bother, beating us to the draw with an answer of her own.
"Long life is in my genes. My father lived to 96, my granddad died the day he turned 100, I had a brother who got to 96, my sister Nola's 94, she still drives herself from Napier to see me.
"I have been very lucky to get this far and stay well and, yes, I do like a glass of good sauvignon blanc."
ELSIE HAY (NEE INDER):
Born: Marton, 1914
Education: "A school in Napier, I don't remember its name."
Family: Widow. Four sons, daughter. "About 14 grandchildren, we can't count how many have come after them."
Interests: Family, working. "I've done all sorts of things." Previous activities: tennis, CWI, member hospital auxiliary, gardening
On her life: "I've just got on with life . . . my family are my life."
Biggest change seen in her 105 years: "The world has totally changed, I've seen so much I can't pick one thing out."
Personal philosophy: "Be kind to one another and they will be kind to you."
Our People is indebted to Elsie's daughter-in law-Shona Hay and granddaughter Fiona Hay for assisting with our chat with Elsie and jogging her memory on the rare occasions it needed jogging.