100th Birthday: Elva Stokes

Elva Stokes celebrated her 100th birthday with two tea parties. Here she is pictured at The Lodge care home, Bedhampton.
Elva Stokes celebrated her 100th birthday with two tea parties. Here she is pictured at The Lodge care home, Bedhampton.
James Taylor at his desk in his office at 116 High Street, Old Portsmouth.

Those halcyon days when pen and paper just worked!

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Less than 20 years ago Elva Stokes leapt off a diving board at Havant Leisure Centre – yet the fit and active Liverpudlian lady, who moved to Portsmouth in the 1940s, says she’s surprised to have reached the age of 100.

Less than 20 years ago Elva Stokes leapt off a diving board at Havant Leisure Centre – yet the fit and active Liverpudlian lady, who moved to Portsmouth in the 1940s, says she’s surprised to have reached the age of 100.

The centenarian celebrated her birthday this month with two tea parties – the first courtesy of The Lodge, the care home in Bedhampton where she lives.

Elva’s daughter Rhona says: ‘The staff decorated the lounge for mum and made her a cake. It was a representation of her stitching of a Clarice Cliff painting that’s hanging on her wall.

‘They also made her chair look like a throne.’

After feeling like a queen for the day, Elva continued her celebrations a few days later with a family day out to Stansted House.

Born in Liverpool in 1916, Elva grew up with four siblings. She met her husband-to-be James at Lime Street Station, after writing to him while he was away in the army.

Elva worked in the fire service during and after the Second World War. She also worked in the office at the munitions factory, and at the Ministry of Information, before moving on to work for Glaxo in her later years.

After marrying James in 1943, Elva lived in London and moved to Portsmouth a few years later. ‘We didn’t have anywhere to live after the war,’ says Elva.

‘James was originally from Portsmouth and someone in his family had somewhere we were able to rent, so off we went.’

The couple had two children, Barry, 70, and Rhona, 61. Before Rhona was born Elva and James also had a son called Roy, who died in his cot at eight weeks old. Elva now has two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Rhona says: ‘Mum and dad had a sidecar and we’d go to Bedhampton to play in the park when I was younger. We were a very happy family.’

Rhona also says that her parents were big travellers, visiting many places across Europe up until they were in their 80s and only stopping when James, who died 10 years ago, became ill.

Over the years Elva has enjoyed a number of different hobbies, including drawing, stitching, walking and swimming.

During her time with the swimming association at Havant, Elva, who was in her 80s, would meet a group of swimmers at the leisure centre and record how far she had swam. Her total was about 400 miles.

‘One day, I decided to run across the diving board, do a twist in the air and land in the pool,’ says Elva, who isn’t shy of an achievement or two.

In 2009 Elva was awarded a Defence Medal at Havant Fire Station for her services in the Second World War.

According to the centenarian, her sense of adventure and the fact she doesn’t smoke and rarely drinks has kept her going.

‘I’m surprised I’ve reached the age of 100. You never expect to do that.’

Rhona says: ‘Mum was 99 when I brought her to The Lodge. There’s not many people who’d be able to look after themselves at 99, then reach 100 and hold a good conversation and still come out with jokes.’