Centenarian Myrtle swimming along at 106
Myrtle Edness celebrated turning 106 with a cake, sunshine, flowers and family.
There was also music, courtesy of her godson, James VanLowe, and the Blues Beat Band.
“I had a good time that day,” said Mrs Edness, who “can't believe” she has reached the age she has.
She was born on July 17, 1914 to Gerald and Adulcie DeShield. Her father introduced her to swimming, a lifelong love, while she was “young”.
“My daddy was a pilot on a boat,” said Mrs Edness, who spent her 99th birthday in the ocean, at Clearwater Beach. “When he took us out, he would let us go in the water and we would have fun.
“I like going to the beach and walking through the sand and walking right into the water.”
As an adult, she regularly enjoyed a 5.30am swim at Horseshoe Bay. She would walk to the Southampton beach from AJ Edness Grocery Store, the business she ran until her retirement in 1978.
“Lots of people used to stop by and chat with her,” said Mrs Edness's daughter, Maureen Eddy, of the store that was located where Rubis Warwick petrol station now stands along South Road. “That's where she met many people.”
Mrs Edness did not start school until the age of 9. She and her siblings, Lillian and Gerald, attended Paget Glebe at a cost of one shilling and sixpence.
They had to walk a mile to and from the school where the headmistress, Adele Tucker, would read newspaper articles to students every morning.
“Before that I did not concern myself with anything except climbing trees to collect loquats and cherries and other tasty berries,” Mrs Edness said.
“Maybe that is why I have lived so long and managed so far to stay healthy.”
Although she “did well in school”, her father refused to listen when her teachers suggested that she continue her studies at the Berkeley Institute because they had not done the same for her older sister.
Instead, Mrs Edness “took evening courses and went to work at The Recorder where she set type, made deliveries and “frequently pedalled all the way to Somerset to collect money owed to the newspaper”.
On September 25, 1944, she married Arnold Edness, a neighbour and childhood friend, who was in the construction business.
Mr Edness built their home, on Billy Goat Hill in Warwick. The couple had two children: Alan, who died in a boating accident in 2003, and Maureen.
Mr Edness died in 1977.
Today, Mrs Edness keeps busy reading books and The Royal Gazette.
“She also does word search puzzles and we have lots of jigsaw puzzles which she enjoys doing. We used to do 1,000-piece ones, but we've now gone down to 500 and 350,” said Mrs Eddy.
“We have a back garden and she always goes out to pick flowers and we make a fresh arrangement every day for the dining room table so she has a bit of activity every day around the property.”
Although she still swims, the pandemic has kept her away from the ocean and from attending Christ Church, Warwick, where she was a regular at the 8am service.
“She's been quite disappointed because normally we have a companion that comes during the week and they did a weekly outing,” her daughter said.
“They would go out for a drive to St George's or Dockyard and they would stop in a restaurant and have lunch and somebody would see her and she'd have a chat.
“Because she knows so many people, somebody would come up but, since the pandemic, I think she's been out once — to the podiatrist and that's it. We've been sheltered ever since.”
The first visitors came for her birthday celebrations on Friday.
Her niece, Dame Jennifer Smith, the former premier, was among the small group of family members who stood 8ft apart during a backyard visit and enjoyed a performance by the Blues Beat Band.
“That's about all the visitors we've had since the beginning of the pandemic,” Mrs Eddy said.
“We've had to specify no visitors. You can talk on the phone, but you're not coming to the door.”
Her own children, Melanie and Jason, have kept in touch with their grandmother from London, England, and New York respectively, on FaceTime.
“That's the only other distraction she's had,” Mrs Eddy said.
Mrs Edness also has a third grandchild, Alex, and one great-grandchild, Alaya.