100TH BIRTHDAY: '˜Amiable' Connie is still young at heart
'˜So Connie, how does it feel to be 100?'
Connie Reeve responds to this question quicker and wittier than someone half her age.
‘Old!’ she jokingly remarks.
Indeed, 100 is a milestone age that not everyone on the planet is given the privilege of reaching, but Connie, who lives in Fareham, still has more energy than your typical centenarian.
‘I haven’t got a secret, I’ve just got too old and I don’t like it,’ she continues. ‘I always used to do things very quickly, but I can’t walk on my own anymore. Otherwise, I’d be up at the disco every night!’
Born in Ealing on June 16, 1917, Constance Halliday is the third of eight children to a housewife mother and butcher father.
Her childhood memories was mostly mired in contracting meningitis as a five-year-old, and spending a lengthy stint in Great Ormond Street Hospital.
‘I must have been eight when I went back to school,’ Connie recalls. ‘They put me back in the infants’ class. I resented going back with the kids when I was that much older, but I stuck it through.
‘I knew that I wanted to work, I was very grown-up and I had everything going for me. I had good hearing, and I still have good eyesight. I’m not moaning, I’m very lucky.’
Leaving school at 14, Connie got a job making clothes for babies under the employ of two sisters, whom she was ‘not allowed to speak’ in front of, before moving on to make stockings in central London.
‘I had two friend who worked for Dr Scholl’s, and they came into my father’s shop and asked if I wanted to come and work there with them.
‘I had to clock in at 8am, so I would get up with my father in the morning, and go to market with him at about 4am. I worked, but it didn’t hurt me.’
Connie met the man who later became her husband, Raymond Reeve, at her local swimming baths when she was around 16. Their meeting was under less-than-usual circumstances, in the way that he ended up saving her life.
‘I couldn’t swim, but I went to the swimming baths one Sunday morning with a friend that I used to go to school with.
‘My husband was stood at the end of the pool talking to my brother, who was going to teach me to swim.
‘Two boys that we were with thought I could swim, so one of them chucked me right in the middle of the pool.
‘It’s a good thing my brother was there. He told Ray that I couldn’t swim, so Ray dived in. I was panicking and I kicked him somewhere that I shouldn’t have!
‘He said that he should teach me to swim, and he did.’
Raymond and Connie married in 1934, and went on to have one daughter, Maureen, now 81, who lives between Oregon and the UK.
They lived in various places around the world, from Spain to Wales – where Maureen was evacuated during the Second World War – and moved to Tiverton Court in Fareham more than 25 years ago.
While Raymond served in the army, Connie found a love and talent for ballroom dancing.
‘I did get quite good at it but I was at a loss for a partner,’ Connie remembers fondly. ‘I had won a medal for coming first in a foxtrot competition and when Ray came home from the war, I was so proud of the medal but he was very jealous.
‘When we moved house, I couldn’t find the medal, and he told me that he had thrown it out. That hurt me more than anything because it was the only medal that I’d won in my life.’
Raymond sadly died 15 years ago after developing Alzheimer’s disease, but these days Maureen has learnt to love being a spectator of ballroom dancing, as well as finding a skill in creating extraordinary paintings and embroidery pieces for her family.
With family travelling from as far as Canada, Connie celebrated turning 100 not only with a lunch at The Oast & Squire pub, but also with her fellow residents at Tiverton Court.
‘The party was absolutely wonderful,’ says the birthday girl. ‘I had no idea that it was happening.’
David Lees, manager at Tiverton Court, says: ‘I think she’s amazing for someone who’s 100. She’s very amiable and she always wants to help everybody out.’