'No lying down' for a full and varied life

Marie Burn, who celebrated her 100th birthday at the Frances Hodgkins Retirement Village on Monday, credits her longevity to a determination to ''keep going''. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Marie Burn, who celebrated her 100th birthday at the Frances Hodgkins Retirement Village on Monday, credits her longevity to a determination to ''keep going''. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Dunedin woman Marie Burn says the secret of her longevity, after a century of hard work, travel and mishaps during a ''very varied life'', is simple.

''You have got to keep going, no matter how you feel,'' she told the Otago Daily Times.

''I have had so many accidents and all that sort of thing ... but you have got to keep going. There's no point lying down.''

Mrs Burn celebrated her 100th birthday at the Frances Hodgkins Retirement Village on Monday afternoon, surrounded by friends and family, after a party with village residents earlier in the week.

Born in 1912, Mrs Burn has lived through the Great Depression, two world wars and a series of nasty accidents, but still managed to work hard and support her two sons, ensuring they gained University of Otago educations.

One, the late Leslie ''Archie'' Burn, became a deputy principal at Kaikorai Valley High School, while the other, Brian Burn, is an astrophysicist and mathematician.

Mrs Burn was one of 13 children, including 12 girls, of which she was the third-eldest, and one boy, who arrived last.

She was born in Poolburn, in Central Otago, but moved to the Catlins as a child and then to Milton as a teenager, where she worked during the Great Depression.

''It was a terrible, terrible depression. I had to work in the woollen mills - everyone had to. That was all the employment there was there.''

When she was about 8 years old, she narrowly avoided losing a leg after an accident with an axe. She later married and moved to Wellington, but during World War 2 decided to return to Milton with her two young sons.

The trio's next move was to Dunedin in 1948 so the boys could receive a ''good education'', she said.

She celebrated her 50th birthday in style by travelling to England with her younger son, Brian, then aged in his mid-20s, in 1963.

The pair spent two years living and travelling in the United Kingdom and Europe. She recalled visits to Spanish castles, riding as a passenger on the back of a motor scooter driven by her son, and driving ''damn fast'' on Germany's autobahns.

''I wouldn't drive on them now,'' she said.

Eventually, she returned to Christchurch, buying a vacant lot and developing a home and garden from scratch before another accident - in which she broke both wrists - meant she could no longer maintain the property.

A move back to Dunedin followed when she was about 75, although she remained in her own home until in her early 90s, when she relocated to Frances Hodgkins.

She remained sharp and independent and stopped driving only when she was 94. She insisted she still did ''practically everything for myself''.

''I cook my own porridge and make my own breakfast.''

Asked about his mother's longevity, Dr Burn said her habit of a gin and tonic every evening probably helped, as did regular games of bridge, both of which ceased only recently.

Mrs Burn said her fondest memories were of her travels and the fun she had inventing new games with her two young boys.

''I often think of that.''

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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