Bessie survives Spanish Flu and Covid to celebrate 105th birthday
A woman who was born during the First World War and has lived through both the Spanish Flu and Covid-19 pandemics has celebrated her 105th birthday.
Martha Elizabeth Hughes, known as Bessie, is the oldest current resident at Pendine Park’s Hillbury House Care Home in Wrexham.
Born in 1916, Bessie spent all her life living in the village of Brymbo, near Wrexham, until she moved to Hillbury House in May 2018 when she was 101.
She already had family links with Pendine Park, including her great-niece, Myra Campion, who was the care organisation’s head housekeeper.
Now an established and popular resident at the home, Bessie has been inundated with birthday cards from family and friends as she joins the select group of people to reach the age of 105.
She was joined by staff and fellow residents as she celebrated her birthday, with balloons and banners on display in the home to acknowledge the landmark.
Bessie was born during the First World War and was 23 years old when the Second World War began in 1939.
She emerged unscathed during the Spanish Flu pandemic as an infant and is still going strong after being vaccinated for the similarly-deadly Covid-19 as a centenarian.
Family members have attributed Bessie’s long life to the healthy lifestyle she has led.
Her 85-year-old nephew Tony Williams, who regularly travelled from Brymbo to visit Bessie at the home until restrictions were imposed due to the pandemic, said: “The reason she is able to celebrate her 105th birthday is that she has always looked after herself.
“My aunt did a lot of dancing and she always went for a walk every day.
“She did her own shopping and always cooked herself a proper meal. She is still going strong and doing well for her age.”
Former housewife Bessie has been widowed for more than 40 years from her late husband, Raymond, who worked as a crane driver at Brymbo Steelworks.
The couple had no children, but Bessie has enjoyed a close relationship with her seven nieces and nephews and their families.
“I ring the home every week to see how Bessie is getting on. I then speak to relatives who live in different parts of the country and relay the information to them,” said Tony.
“They are all keen to know how she is doing.
“I am very impressed with the way she is looked after at Hillbury House.
“The staff are always friendly there and I am very grateful for what they do for her.”
Bessie has become accustomed to celebrating landmark birthdays.
She was still living at home in Brymbo when she turned 100 in 2016, when well-wishers sending her cards included her favourite author, Jeffrey Archer.
Reaching the century was made extra-special by a visit by acclaimed Welsh tenor Wynne Evans, known for his role as Gio Compario in the GoCompare TV adverts.
“Wynne was a very nice man,” recalled Tony, who lived a short distance from Bessie’s then-home in Brymbo.
“I think when he arrived he was expecting to come across a frail old lady.
“But instead he found my aunt to be fit and well.
“He interviewed her for Radio Wales and she clearly enjoyed it all.”
A committed Christian and former chapel organist, Bessie continues to say The Lord’s Prayer every day.
She was previously a member of organisations including Brymbo WI and Brymbo Luncheon Club.
Bessie continued to live an independent and active life until she suffered a fall at the age of 101 when her eyesight was deteriorating, leading to her moving to Hillbury House.
Although the move led to Bessie no longer living in her native Brymbo, she has since become well-established at Hillbury House.
The home’s long-serving manager Cindy Clutton said: “We congratulate Bessie on her 105th birthday. It is a major milestone to reach.
“She has been with us at Hillbury House for three years and she is loved by all of us.
“Bessie is still going strong. She is a feisty and wonderful lady.”
Cindy revealed how appreciative the team of staff are of the life Bessie has lived.
“It is remarkable to think of all the things she has lived through,” said Cindy. “She has been alive during two World Wars, as well as through two pandemics.
“She’s doing well and it is a pleasure for us to be looking after her.”
Rowena Roberts, a care practitioner at Hillbury House, conveyed how well-liked Bessie is at the home.
“It is a fantastic achievement for Bessie to be celebrating her 105th birthday,” she said. “She is very popular here and loves having her hair done, as well as reciting The Lord’s Prayer.
“We see the residents here more than we do our own families. They become like a part of your family and that is certainly true of how we feel about Bessie.”