Not too old to learn at 102, says Doris

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By Toni Williams

You’re never too old to learn, says Women’s Institute (WI) veteran Doris Wakelin.

She is 102.

She has been a member of the Mid Canterbury district’s WI for more than 65 years.

She went to Maronan, Willowby/Eiffelton, Ashburton District, Hampstead and now Netherby WIs.

It’s been a time full of friendships, fun and continued learning.

“It’s a place for friendship,” she said.

“Other women are there and you learn.

“Today we have so much other stuff, texting and other stuff (such as computers), but we can still share skills and learn from other people.

“You’re never too old to learn. I was 100 and learned how to use my microwave,” she said.

Doris lives in downtown Ashburton, has a great memory, a good sense of humour and, aside from arthritis aggravated by a fall in her 90s, is in mostly good health.

She was born July, 1917 in the family home in Hampstead.

She was the eldest daughter of six children, but growing up spent a lot of time with her aunt Fanny, who she adored.

When, at 18, Doris met her future first husband, George Bishop, ten years her senior, she was working as a housekeeper both in the private sector and for her mother.

It was a job she continued to do until their marriage three years later. (And picked up in later life, working at the Ashburton Hospital).

The WI didn’t appear on Doris’ radar until she was in her mid-30s, and it was at the instigation of farm owner Margaret (aka Peggy) Rhodes.

By then Doris and George, who was a farm worker on the Rhodes property, had five children; a sixth child died at birth.

Jeffrey, Myra, David and Allen have since passed but youngest child, Noella, is still alive and lives close to Doris, visiting daily, as well as other family and caregivers.

And it’s a big family – Doris has 13 grandchildren, 30 great grandchildren and 18 and counting great, great grandchildren

Doris and George spent early married life on different farms around Mid Canterbury, including spells at Ealing and Dorie before arriving at Maronan.

“The boss’s wife (Peggy) took me along (to WI). There was nothing else to do in the area,” Doris said.

“I could already cook but I learned craft and sewing.

“I learned all of those skills by belonging to institute in those days,”she said.

“It was the only thing, outside going to church at the hall that people did (off the farm).”