Mary Shea celebrated her 100th birthday with her Nightingale Library ‘Nellie Knitters’ last Monday. Photo: Kate Russell.

Mary’s 100 years of yarns


Mary Shea reckons the secret to her longevity could be in the genes – but perhaps it’s her passion for knitting that has kept her feeling young.

The Stoke resident turned 100 yesterday and celebrated accordingly last week with her Nightingale Library ‘Nellie Knitters’ group – which she meets with every Monday.

“I haven’t got many secrets. My mother lived until she was 93 and granny was 95. Also, no drinking, no parties and a lot of laughing.”

She still lives independently in the Brookgreen retirement community.

“I feel great. I’m well and I don’t need a walking stick or a wheelie. I’m cooking my dinners – veggies and all the trimmings. I don’t cook biscuits much now though. I haven’t done that for a while.”

She says reading and knitting are her favourite pastimes.

“I started knitting when I was nine years old. I used to like gardening, but I can’t do much now. But I do quite a bit of snoring off in the chair, I’ll tell you that.”

Mary has two daughters, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

“I was born in Palmerston North. I’ve lived in Motueka and went to school at Hira for part of the time. Like gypsies we were, everywhere.”

She was in Air Force for three and a half years and was married just before the end of World War II.

“We lived in Wakefield for a while and shifted to New Plymouth when my husband decided he wanted to be in the traffic department. He was a traffic cop for some years and our girls went to high school up there.

“Then we came back down here around 30 years ago when we retired.”

Mary has been part of the Nellie Knitters since 2016. The group produce hand-knitted goods for the community.

She says it feels “absolutely mad” to be turning 100 and although it wasn’t a milestone she was “keen on” she is glad she’s still around to be part of the group.

“I’ve knitted toys, blankets, singlets, slippers, cardigans and hats for organisations. Anyone that wants stuff. They go all over the place.

“I love it, they’re a great gang here.”