The year Mildred Andrew was born, horse and cart was the common mode of transport, Andrew Fisher was Prime Minister and Carlton beat Fitzroy in the VFL Grand Final with almost 40,000 people in attendance at the MCG.
On Friday, 26 January, the Benetas St George’s resident and oldest Victorian-born person in the state, turned 109 surrounded by friends and family. Perhaps it was good genes that has led to the astonishing age or maybe the mantra she has carried with her through the ups and downs.
“Every night I go to bed and put a blanket over my mind and forget my worries. If you can’t fix it, it’s not worth worrying about,” Mrs Andrew said. “Or maybe it’s just a love of chocolate.”
Born and bred in Williamstown, Mrs Andrew has lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression, Spanish flu, the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Phar Lap’s prime, the arrival of television and the indigenous vote referendum.
During her childhood, telephones were as rare as hen’s teeth, lighting was mostly powered by gas and the common family outing was a trip to Altona beach for the day.
While Mrs Andrew enjoyed a modest childhood, she does enjoy a regal connection, with ancestral ties to the British Royal family going back to the ninth century and Alfred the Great Wessex who lived between 849 and 901.
But perhaps her biggest achievement was the Order of Australia she received on her 100th birthday for her work supporting children with disabilities.
Mrs Andrew was a volunteer, carer and manager at the former Footscray Spastic Children’s Centre between 1953 and 1972.
She was also central in lobbying local councils for funds to provide a bus – which she drove – to transport children with disabilities to and from the centre and the Chislon centre in Maidstone.
The grandmother of two, who prefers to go by Millie, was one of nine siblings, including twin boys who tragically died in infancy. After leaving school, she found work at the woollen mills in Yarraville, walking to and from work every single day.
In December 1935 she married Jack, a young man she had met at the local Presbyterian church. She then watched him go off to serve in the Royal Australia Navy during World War II while she worked as a seamstress.
Following his return, the couple’s daughter Susan was born in 1944. Both avid South Melbourne Football Club fans, the couple remained in Williamstown until 1979 when Mr Andrew tragically passed away. She later moved to Altona before arriving at St George’s at the age of 95.
Her green thumb followed her to the aged care home, with the then spry nonagenarian taking responsibility of the facility’s gardens, turning them into a sea of colours.
The loyal monarchist now enjoys spending time keeping up with the royal family and spending time with her grandchildren, Trevor, 52, and Sharon, 48.