He's never drunk and he's never smoked. He's always kept mind and body active. He survived three years service in World War II and untold classrooms of rowdy students. And today, Norm Fraser is 100.
The former art teacher will spend the day celebrating his century with family and friends, and while he may be confined to a wheelchair after breaking his leg in a fall two years ago, Norm is alert and happy to retell stories from his life.
Born March 4, 1921 at 57 Greenlane Rd, Auckland, which is now part of the Dilworth School grounds, Norm was brought up in St Heliers, which back then, was semi-rural Auckland. His father was a Gallipoli veteran, who had met and married his mother in England during World War I.
"My mother was a housewife and Dad was driving for LJ Keys who were the first bus service from St Heliers," Norm says.
"I wasn't the first child but I was the eldest. I had an older brother, Teddy, who died when he was 4."
Norm's daughter Pauline Chester thinks Teddy's death was possibly from meningitis but Norm has a different theory, one that came about when his mother used to find him and his two younger brothers Mac (short for Malcolm) and Bill eating unripe fruit.
"Our mother used to tell us when we were raiding the orchard and eating the apples, that he died from eating green apples."
When Norm was 2, his family shifted into a brand new two-bedroom house. There was no gas, no electricity and it had an outside toilet.
"St Heliers was quite different then. There were five houses from St Heliers Bay Rd up to St Thomas' ruin. Now, it's absolutely chockablock with houses all up there.
"We almost lived on the beach, we used to go there a lot. We used to go to the rock pools. We used to go fishing and we borrowed a boat from the man across the road, it was a 14-foot clinker and we would row it, one oar each, and go fishing, we'd catch snapper mostly in those days."
Norm taught himself to swim and became a very strong swimmer, regularly swimming over to Browns Island (2km in a straight line). Three times he and a friend swam to Rangitoto Island from St Heliers (4.5km), and back. What's more, he didn't even tell his mother first.
The family home was on a three-quarter acre section and the Frasers grew all their own vegetables, with the boys looking after the lawns and gardens. As an adult, Norm always had his own garden and Mac went on to work at the Parnell Rose Gardens.
Norm attended St Heliers Bay Primary School where the largest class had 106 students.
"I never got the strap [at primary school] but Bill did. He would go out and play in the rain when they weren't supposed to."
On Norm's wall is a painting of parrots. He says it was the first watercolour painting he ever did. It was a Christmas gift for his mother. The picture is so lovely that it is no surprise to learn that after leaving primary school in standard six (form two), Norm went on to Elam Art School for two years. He left at 15 to take up a six-year photo engraving apprenticeship.
At 17, he met future wife Olga, then 16. They were both working at the Auckland Star, Norm in the photo engraving department where the plates were made for printing photographs, and Olga in photography.
Then, World War II intervened. Norm received his call-up papers in 1942, on his 21st birthday.
At the time he was courting Olga but the pair decided it would be unwise to marry before he was sent overseas because they didn't know whether he would be back. He spent a year in Egypt then was moved to Italy and eventually to Cassino to join the Allied Forces' attempts to break through the German lines.
Many of his sketches from the war were later stolen from his kit bag, but Norm still has a pencil sketch he made of 750 American Flying Fortresses bombing Cassino at the start of the offensive.
After Cassino, he volunteered for the medical corps and spent the rest of the war working in the laboratory at a hospital near Bari.
He returned to New Zealand on October 1, 1945 and immediately boarded the night train to Auckland. Waiting for him on the platform in Auckland was Olga, now his fiancée. Norm had proposed to her by letter while overseas and his father had bought Olga's engagement ring.
They were married six weeks later and despite wartime shortages Olga and her mother, a dressmaker, created a beautiful white wedding dress. It was a marriage which lasted 62 years and produced daughters Pauline and Kathryn, six grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, all split between Taupō and Auckland.
Norm returned to photo engraving but when the baby boom began, suddenly a lot more teachers were needed. The government offered one-year accelerated teacher training and he decided to apply.
"One of the photo engravers said to me 'you should go teaching because you've got so much knowledge of things'. So I applied for teaching and of a group of 60, I came third."
Norm initially taught at Onehunga Primary but when Pauline was 7, in 1954 they moved to the Kaitieke Valley, 35km south of Taumarunui for Norm's country service, where he had charge of a roll of between 18 and 26 children.
Pauline remembers it as a wonderful time, with monthly trips to town for groceries and Norm fetching milk every day from the neighbour up the road.
"We loved it. We had lambs and I had a horse and it was really, really nice."
A stint teaching art at New Plymouth Girls' High School followed and then a mix of secondary and primary schools around the Auckland area. Norm and Olga shifted 15 times during their marriage, until he retired at 60.
"The inspectorate was always at me to take on a school but I said I wasn't interested. I enjoyed being in the classroom. I saw that headmasters didn't have much contact with the children."
Retirement to Tauranga gave Norm and Olga the opportunity to travel and for Norm to spend more time painting and sketching. Some of his artworks from the war are at the Waiouru Army Museum on its schedule of exhibitions, family members have others and Norm's wall at St John's Wood has a selection of his favourite artworks including a country scene from Otago and an oil painting of a sleeping vagrant he spotted during a trip to London.
A touching pencil portrait of his dog Peppi is there too, and a beautiful painting of birds has been promised to one of his grandchildren.
Norm kept up with his art until his hand got too shaky. While they were living at Kaitieke, a pencil portrait of Pauline and Kathryn won first prize in an art competition and he took up ceramic art, with great success. He also enjoyed writing poetry.
Olga had a stroke at 81 and Norm looked after her for several years until eventually Olga moved into Taupō's Wharerangi Rest Home. Norm took up residence just around the corner at Pauline's and saw Olga every day until she died in 2008.
Norm, a strong swimmer and walker throughout his life, had to make the move to rest home care two years ago after breaking his femur.
He was looking forward to his birthday, to seeing family and to receiving some more birthday cards - which will join the ones he's already received from the Queen, the Governor-General and the Prime Minister in pride of place on his table.