In a clear, strong voice and without even needing reading glasses, Jean Cooke last week read aloud the card from the Queen, congratulating her on turning 100.
The extraordinarily robust Mrs Cooke celebrated the milestone with friends and staff at Martyn Claver Nursing Home at Leura, where she has lived for the past 18 months.
As well as greetings from the Queen, Mrs Cooke also received cards from the Governor-General Quentin Bryce, the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Governor Marie Bashir, the Premier Barry O’Farrell and local member Roza Sage.
But it could so easily have ended in 1942. Mrs Cooke revealed she was nearly felled by one of the bombs launched at Sydney by three Japanese midget submarines.
“I was at Rose Bay,” she said. “It was early, about 10 o’clock and I’d been out with friends. It missed me by a few inches.”
Mrs Cooke grew up in Sydney with two brothers. The younger brother tragically drowned at Bondi in 1929, aged 18. Her elder brother moved to New Zealand and had a son, Peter, who is Mrs Cooke’s closest relative.
She started work at 15, mostly in insurance and also with a firm of patent attorneys during the war. In the mid-1970s she moved to the Mountains, commuting to work on the morning “Fish” train until her retirement.
At the age of 65 she married — “I was the shy type,” she said. Her husband, Ernie, died more than a decade ago.
Mrs Cooke said a cataract operation enabled her to read without her glasses and she also did not need a hearing aid.
Commenting on her longevity, she said it was “more good luck than good management” but then put it down to having always worn a hat and “my trust in God”.