'Positive attitude' over 100 years

Sister Mary Winefride celebrates on the eve of her 100th birthday at Little Sisters of the Poor...
Sister Mary Winefride celebrates on the eve of her 100th birthday at Little Sisters of the Poor Home and Hospital in Dunedin. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Sister Mary Winefride's 100th birthday is actually today, Anzac Day, but many friends and family celebrated her birthday at the Little Sisters of the Poor Home and Hospital, in Dunedin, yesterday.

Sr Winefride, who was born Vera Morris, in Dunedin, completed a home science degree at the University of Otago in the early 1930s, and soon entered religious life, joining the Dominican Order, in 1934.

She subsequently devoted much of her life to science-related teaching in Dominican schools, in Dunedin, Invercargill and near Oamaru, retiring from teaching in 1983.

And many of her former pupils regard her as wonderful teacher, who also transformed many of their lives, including by helping open up science-related career prospects, which might otherwise have been thought closed to them.

A Eucharist of Thanksgiving service was held in her honour yesterday, and tributes were paid to her at a later luncheon.

Father Kevin Toomey and Bishop Len Boyle were celebrants at the service.

Fr Toomey later said Sr Winefride was an ''extraordinary science teacher'', whose consistently ''faithful'' response to her pupils had also been reciprocated by them.

Asked about the secret of living to 100, Sr Winefride said she never ''set out to reach that age''.

But she had always taken a positive approach to life, and, throughout her long teaching career, was ''helping other people all the time''.

And judging from positive comments subsequently made to her by former pupils, she realised they had ''benefited from what I did''.

Her relationship with her pupils had remained crucial throughout her teaching career: ''I know that I was really interested in them.''

And that interest had never waned. She was always eager to learn what former pupils were up to when they popped in to see her.

And she was taking her special birthday in her stride: ''It's just part of life''.

Many former pupils have come to see her over the years, some of them travelling long distances.

''I feel glad to know that I've been appreciated.''

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz


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