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'I have never drunk alcohol or smoked': Woman celebrates 100th birthday

PUBLISHED: 10:29 29 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:22 29 September 2019

Gwen Harris, seated centre, with the Town Reeve of Bungay, Sylvia Knights, and her son John Harris and daughter Margaret Buttifant. Picture Terry Reeve

Gwen Harris, seated centre, with the Town Reeve of Bungay, Sylvia Knights, and her son John Harris and daughter Margaret Buttifant. Picture Terry Reeve

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A woman who credits her long life to never drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette has celebrated her 100th birthday.

Friends and residents at Homewood; and at the Blind Association party with her children, her cake, and club chairman Jennifer Langeskov.Picture: Terry ReeveFriends and residents at Homewood; and at the Blind Association party with her children, her cake, and club chairman Jennifer Langeskov.Picture: Terry Reeve

Gwen Harris, who was born on September 19 in 1919 celebrated her centenary with two parties - one at the Holmwood residential home in Bungay where she now lives and at the Beccles and Bungay branch of the East Suffolk Association for the Blind, of which she is a long-standing member.

Mrs Harris, who was born Gwen Cook at Walthamstowe in London, also lived at Clare in Suffolk when her father opened a bakery there.

She later moved to Bungay and worked at the Bungay Gas and Electricity Company in the Market Place, in the office and also demonstrating cooking on early Hotpoint electric ovens once a week. She had trained in the cookery trade at Great Yarmouth Corporation's electrical department.

"I had to learn how to use them first before I taught other people," she added, "I had to use whatever ingredients I could get, because there were shortages at the start of the second world war.

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She became a member of the Congregational Church, which is now Emmanuel Church, in Bungay, and her husband met Stanley Harris - who she always called Joe - there.

"He came with other lads and sat two rows behind me. He said to them, 'she is mine,'" she said.

They married in 1941. He was called up into the army and soon after left for duty in Africa.

Mrs Harris said: 'He said to me before he left, 'I'm going to leave you something of me in case I don't come back, so you will at least have something to look after."

Their son John was born in December, 1942, in Wellingborough. He did not see his father for three years, but Joe returned from the war, and in 1947 they had a daughter, Margaret.

In Bungay the family lived in Bridge Street before moving to Ditchingham Dam, where their home was flooded in the 1947 floods. The family was rescued by ladder and went to stay in Yarmouth.

She said: "I've had a busy life, and it's been happy."

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