SHE’S 109 today – but Lily Strugnell doesn’t let her age stop her from getting on with life.
The great-great-grandmother is keen on social media and loves to stay in touch with friends and family on Facebook.
Lily was born the eldest of 11 children on August 6, 1904, in Rudmore Road, Stamshaw, Portsmouth.
She said viewing her online page on an iPad belonging to her granddaughter Debbie Turner, 52, was ‘like magic’.
‘I couldn’t write my name until I went to school – when teachers stuck a pencil in my hand I thought it was a stick,’ she said.
‘We didn’t own a camera because we couldn’t afford it.’
Mrs Turner said: ‘We take so much for granted now, but when she went to school, she didn’t have shoes. You can’t imagine a child going to school without shoes nowadays, although she had shoes to go to church on Sundays.
‘And when she was young she didn’t have a car, she walked or caught the tram. They didn’t have a car until the late 1950s.’
Lily’s father was a fisherman.
They lived in a small cottage by the harbour where at high tide it would flood and twice a year they would have to stay on the first floor in order to keep dry.
When she was 14, Lily began working as a house parlour maid at a large house in Southsea.
She married Robert Strugnell in 1927 when she was 23. He passed away in 1954.
They had four children Robert, Brian, Joy and Brenda, and during the war, Joy and Brenda belonged to a dance troupe in Fareham where Lily made costumes for them to perform at the Kings Theatre, in Southsea.
At 107, Lily learned how to use a telephone, despite never owning one before.
‘We bought her one with big buttons and she coped with it really, really well,’ Mrs Turner said.
Lily, who is the last of her large band of siblings, said the secret of her longevity was strong will, plenty of patience and hard work.
She looked after herself until June this year and now lives at Orchard House Care Centre in Newport on The Isle of Wight.
Karen Oliver, general manager at Orchard House Care Centre, said: ‘Lily is an absolute joy to care for and always makes the staff smile.
‘We are amazed by Lily’s rich life stories and all of us at Orchard House feel it is a privilege to be part of her life and this very special celebration.’
Lily is considered the oldest surviving widow from the Second World War, something which was due to be commemorated by Elaine Duggan of The War Widows’ Association at her birthday party today.
Ahead of the celebrations, Mrs Strugnell received her 10th birthday card from the Queen.
Lily has three grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Her great-granddaughter Michelle Hedges lives on the Isle of Wight and she has other family who live in Portsmouth.