Celebrating a century

Published on 01 February 2019

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Mrs Joy Patten and Mrs Isabella McBride are two very special MidCoast women - they're celebrating their 100th birthdays this summer and MidCoast Assist has thrown a party for them.

Joy Patten from Smiths Lake became a centenarian on 2 January, while Isabella McBride's 100th birthday will occur on 21 February. Both ladies were honoured at a special "Ageing to Perfection - Over 90s" luncheon at MidCoast Assist on Friday 1 February. MP for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead and MidCoast Council Mayor David West were there to congratulate both ladies and celebrate with them, along with many of their friends.

These ladies are inspirational and made from tough stuff. Both still live in their own homes, and Joy still drives to Forster from home in Smiths Lake. Perhaps it's the challenges they have faced in their lifetimes, and the hard work that's characterised their lives, that has contributed to their good health and longevity.

Both born in 1919, Joy in Pymble, Sydney and Isabella at Tinonee, these women have seen revolutionary change in the world in every facet of life - in technological innovation, society and culture, in politics, industry and occupations, and the environment. 

They were a generation whose childhood ended with a cruel Great Depression, whose young adult lives were savaged by the second World War and who had to rebuild their country from the devastation of world war. They have had to be resourceful and inventive, and they were also the first generation of women who, on a large scale, were well educated, learnt to drive motor cars and moved into the workforce to take the 'men's jobs' during the war.

Isabella was the last-born of ten siblings, and never knew her eldest brother - he was killed in Belgium in World War One before she was even born. She lived at Blackhead and Taree, leaving school when the Depression meant her father could no longer afford her school fees. She took up work as housekeeper for the Martin family, solicitors in Taree.

In 1939, Isabella married her young man, Forster man Abe McBride, at St John’s Church in Taree. Abe and Isabella settled in Tuncurry, where Abe worked at the butter factory, which also supplied Tuncurry's electricity! After Abe had a devastating accident when he fell from a power pole, Isabella went to work to support their young family - children Charles, Margaret and Richard. Together, they also ran a guest house in Tuncurry for 17 years - which involved an enormous amount of hard work.

Joy Patten had two older sisters, but grew up a mischievous tomboy, with a brother as her playmate. She was extremely close to her brother Cyril, who became an airman during World War Two and lost his life when he was shot down. She also met her husband Norm Patten while she was on holidays - at Long Jetty in NSW. Norm enlisted during the War, but was told he wouldn’t go overseas because he had flat feet. However he was called up and served in New Guinea in a non-combatant role, where he went missing for months and contracted Dengue Fever.

When Norm returned from war, he became a sales director for an American food company and they lived in Greenwich in Sydney. In 1978, they built a house by Smiths Lake and retired. Joy says "I've had a wonderful life, I've never been rich but I've always been able to do what I want".

Both Isabella and Joy have travelled extensively and loved seeing the world. From lifetimes of hard work and hardships, both women have an ability to celebrate the good times with great relish! Isabella and Joy's love of life and enjoyment of every day is very apparent.

And that's another life lesson we can learn from these inspirational ladies! If you’d like to read more about Isabella and Joy’s very momentous lives, visit midcoastassist.com.au/100thbirthdays

MidCoast Assist is supported by the Australian Government Department of Health.