Isle of Wight woman celebrates 112th birthday

Gladys Hooper
Gladys Hooper
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An Isle of Wight woman who is the oldest person in Britain has celebrated her 112th birthday.

Gladys Hooper became the country’s oldest on Thursday following the death of Ethel Lang, who was 114.

Members of her family have travelled from Brighton, Derby and even British Colombia to be with Mrs Hooper for her big day yesterday.

Mrs Hooper, who has a son, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, said her special treat for the day would be to have “a nice birthday cake”.

The great-grandmother, who was born the same year the Wright brothers invented the first successful aeroplane, puts the secret of her success down to keeping active and “living a straight life”.

And she said she does not feel a day over 70.

The theme of aviation has run through her long life - she was good friends at college with Amy Johnson who became a famous aviatrix; her husband Leslie, whom she married in 1922, was a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps in the two World Wars; and her son, Derek Hermiston, is a retired pilot.

Mrs Hooper is the oldest of the country’s supercentenarians, according to a list maintained by the Gerontology Research Group.

On finding out the news, Mrs Hooper, who lives in an apartment in her 84-year-old son’s house in Ryde on the Isle of Wight, said: “I am very surprised, I thought I was just the oldest person on the island.”

She added: “The secret of my success? I have always been busy, I prefer being busy than being idle, that’s what I don’t like about now is I can’t get about like I used to.

“I have always lived a straight life, never done stupid things, I have never gone beyond the limit, always been active, I think always being active keeps you young.

“I have done what I wanted to do and helped others as much as I could.

“I do not feel anything like the age I am, I do not feel any different to when I was 70.”

Mrs Hooper was widowed in 1977 and moved to the island in 1979 to be nearer her family.

She said: “I do not actually live with them, I have an apartment in their house. I just had one son and he’s marvellous.

“It is nice to have family nearby, it’s nice to know you can ask them for anything if you need to.”

Mrs Hooper said she did not feel that the world had changed dramatically in her life time.

She said: “I think I have lived with the years as they have gone by.

“Things haven’t got any better, there’s so much trouble in the world.”

Mr Hermiston said: “I am very proud of her, she does very well since she was 100.

“She is very compos mentis, no dementia at all. She is a really nice person who has done a lot of good things for others during her war service.”

His wife, Veronica, 68, said: “We are very proud of her and we have watched her go on and on, she doesn’t change.

“She lost her last sister three months ago, the youngest one. There were six of them altogether - five girls and one boy - she was the oldest and the longest.”

She continued: “Gladys told me that she had a very difficult birth, she came out with a misshapen head and the midwife said ‘I do not think she will do much’ but she was brilliant at maths and music and proved the midwife wrong.”

Born Gladys Nash on January 18 1903, she was born in Dulwich, south east London, and brought up in Rottingdean, Brighton, East Sussex, and went on to study at college.

She became a concert pianist in London and played with famous band leaders of the time such as Jack Payne, Debroy Somers and Maurice Winnick. In the early 1920s she also started what is thought to be one of the first car hire companies called Autodrive and was asked by the founder of Hertz if she would be his managing director.

She later ran Kingscliff House School, which is now Brighton College, as well as nursing her husband for 13 years.

Mrs Hermiston said: “She has done an awful lot, she is a very strong lady, a very amazing person.”

Mrs Lang, the last person born in the UK who was born in the reign of Queen Victoria, died on January 15 at the Water Royd House nursing home in Barnsley.

Mrs Lang was born in the Worsbrough area of Barnsley in May 1900 and lived in the South Yorkshire town all her life.

She only moved into a care home when she was 105. She left school at 13 to work in a shirt factory and married her husband William in 1922.

Mr Lang died in 1988. The oldest person in the world is thought to be Misao Okawa, a Japanese woman who celebrated her 116th birthday in March last year.