100TH BIRTHDAY: Babs has always shown determination in the face of adversity

The First World War still had six months to run before the Armistice when Geraldine Leonora Edith Victoria Beale was born on April 9, 1918.

Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 12:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 12:16 pm
Babs Grove celebrating her 100th birthday with daughter Vivien. Picture: Murray Saunders

The eldest of three girls born to her mother Lily, Babs grew up along with her sisters, Mertie and Jean.

Despite the luxury of four Christian names, Geraldine became Babs immediately and has spent the rest of her long life being called Babs.

Her family say anyone calling her by any of her real names throughout her life would normally be ignored; not out of rudeness , but lack of recognition.

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And she recently celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by family and friends at her nursing home.

Babs’ mother Lily, who owned and ran the well known Alexandra Hardware store in Stamshaw during the war years and until 1974, was a strong-willed woman with great energy and ingenuity in support of her family.

When she became unwell in 1988, Babs took over the role as head of the family.

Babs met her husband Arthur George Grove in 1935 when they both worked at Reeves Grocery wholesalers in Portsmouth.

Babs, who was the book-keeper, met Arthur Grove when he was the delivery driver and they soon got married in 1940.

Their only daughter, Vivien, was born in 1945.

She in turn had two daughters, Michelle and Louise, with her late husband Michael.

After a number of moves, the Grove family finally moved to a house in Victory Avenue, Horndean.

It was here that Babs had a horrific gardening accident, unfortunately resulting in the amputation of her right leg above the knee.

Rising above adversity with typical determination and with the help of quite futuristic engineering in 1954, Babs and Arthur had their car adapted and she started driving as soon as she had recovered.

Having had an impeccable driving record, and still driving carefully when she was 95, Babs had been to see the doctor in Cowplain for a check-up when she was involved in a car accident.

While reversing out of the car park, she was frightened by the horn of an impatient driver and accidentally selected the wrong gear, causing her to hit one of the out-buildings and her car was completely written off.

With all the emergency services called, thinking she was injured, a policeman asked if Babs was okay, to which she replied: ‘Yes, but I suppose that’s my licence gone!’

Such was her stoicism that she knew when her time had come, and proceeded to hand over her licence.

She was, of course, okay and thankfully walked away from the incident unharmed.

Following Arthur’s death in March 2002, Babs lived alone and independently until she moved into The Wedge Care Home on Hayling Island to be near her daughter and son-in-law.

She is extremely well cared for by the staff at The Wedge, lead by owner Jo Masey and her team who ‘really are the most caring people’ Babs could have asked for, says her daughter Vivien.

She adds: ‘My mother has had a strong constitution throughout her life. She is an extremely tough lady and just about the most caring person any daughter could have wished for. Throughout my life I can’t remember being told off, always corrected with a smile!’

Babs’ family descended on The Wedge for her 100th birthday with flowers, cards and presents.

When asked how the day had gone, Babs says: ‘A little overwhelming but it’s wonderful to be surrounded by the ones you love.’