A good sense of humour is centenarian Mary’s recipe for a happy and healthy life

Former nurse Mary Nixon of Holt, who celebrated her 100th birthday last week. Photo: Karen Bethell Former nurse Mary Nixon of Holt, who celebrated her 100th birthday last week. Photo: Karen Bethell

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
3:58 PM

According to Holt centenarian Mary Nixon, the secret of a long and happy life is staying active, eating well and having a good sense of humour.

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Former nurse Mary Nixon of Holt as a youngster in 1920 at her home at Upton Hall, Acle, with brothers Douglas and Harry. Photo: suppliedFormer nurse Mary Nixon of Holt as a youngster in 1920 at her home at Upton Hall, Acle, with brothers Douglas and Harry. Photo: supplied

“Sugar, butter and gin is the answer,” Mrs Nixon joked. “But, really, I think it is just one of those things that happen, and, of course, everybody is living longer now.”

Born the oldest of three children into a farming family at Upton Hall, Acle, Mrs Nixon, who celebrated her 100th birthday on August 17, was taught at home by governesses, until, when the family moved to a smaller farm at Spratts Green, Aylsham in 1926, she was sent to boarding school in Gorleston.

After leaving school aged 17, she moved into the nurses’ home at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and, after completing her training, travelled to London to embark on a midwifery course.

Returning to Norwich as a sister, Mrs Nixon was in charge of a 40-bed ward when, in 1942, the hospital was seriously damaged during the German Baedeker raids.

Holt centenarian Mary Nixon (nee Gray) in uniform in 1940, when she was a sister at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.Holt centenarian Mary Nixon (nee Gray) in uniform in 1940, when she was a sister at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

One of the nurses’ homes and the operating theatres were destroyed and many patients and staff had to be evacuated from the building.

Mrs Nixon and her patients were sent to the David Rice Hospital – now Hellesdon Hospital – at Drayton, but, with characteristic fortitude, she “just got on with it”.

“I remember hearing the planes coming over and the bombs, especially the doodlebugs, which would just stop and you would wonder where they were going to land,” Mrs Nixon said.

“But we didn’t really think much about it.”

Holt centenarian Mary Nixon with husband Bill on her wedding day in 1948.Holt centenarian Mary Nixon with husband Bill on her wedding day in 1948.

Shortly after the end of the war, Mrs Nixon met her future husband Bill when he arrived at the Norfolk and Norwich as a newly qualified houseman.

The couple were married at Aylsham in 1948 and moved to Holt, where Bill set up a GP practice on Cromer Road.

Mrs Nixon then took a break from full-time nursing and concentrated on juggling looking after daughter Elizabeth and sons John and Robert with the demands of being a GP’s wife, which meant she took after-hours calls at home and helped out at the surgery.

“Someone always had to be there to answer the phone, so it could be quite restrictive but, looking back, I enjoyed it,” Mrs Nixon said.

The couple quickly forged many friendships in Holt, where a road is named in Bill’s memory.

After the practice took on a further two GPs in the early 1970s, Mrs Nixon returned to work as a theatre sister at Kelling Hospital, where she stayed until she retired in the mid-1980s.

With more free time on her hands, she then threw herself into community life, becoming a Meals on Wheels volunteer, taking on the chairmanship of the local Over 60s club and helping out in the kitchens at Holt Day Centre.

A devoted mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Mrs Nixon, who lives in Peacock Lane, has continued to enjoy an active social life, visiting friends and, until the age of 98, driving into Holt most days. She celebrated her birthday last weekend with a party for more than 100 family and friends at the Feathers Hotel in the town.

Are you celebrating a special milestone? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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