A woman born just over a fortnight after legendary crooner Frank Sinatra celebrated her 100th birthday in style – and attributes her longevity to the odd nip of whisky.
As well as receiving a birthday card from the Queen, Esther Stevens enjoyed a party with family and friends at Pendine Park’s Highfield care home in Wrexham where she has lived for the past two and a half years.
The great-grandmother of nine was born at Plas Warren, Dudleston, near Ellesmere on Wednesday, December 29 in 1915.
At her special birthday bash, Mrs Stevens enjoyed reading a copy of The Daily Sketch newspaper published the day she was born which had a headline of Great Gale Havoc.
The page two story told of lives lost, ships wrecked and flooding thanks to a major storm – mirroring the news headlines on the day she celebrated her centenar.
Daughter Ruth Pearson, 67, says her mum had farmed all her life and had a passion for horse racing.
She said: “She was the eldest of three sisters. Her sisters Elsie died aged 85 and Ruth died aged 60 many years ago. Mum was married to my dad Thomas Pate Stevens and together they farmed all their working lives until dad died in 1975.
“Originally they farmed at Crabmill Farm and later Allington Farm, Rossett. They had three children. I’m the eldest and have two children, Sarah, now 42, and Rachel, now 40.
“My brother Robert, died aged 40 of a brain haemorrhage. He had two children, Jane, now 47, and Andrew, 44. My other brother Colin, is now 65 and has three children Robert and Rebecca, who are 38-year old twins, and Anthony who is 39.
“Mum also has nine great-grandchildren, Lucy, 13, Tom, 12, James, 10 and Abigail, three, who are Andrew’s children, Caitlin, nine, and Steven, seven, who are Rebecca’s children, Oliver who is two and Jessica, six months, who are Robert’s children and Woody, six, who is my daughter Rachel’s child.”
Ruth added: “Mum and dad would go horse racing whether it was national hunt or the flat. They loved Chester, York and Ascot and of course Bangor-on-Dee. They never really had holidays just a few days away at the races when they could.
“She’s been a resident here at Highfield House for two-and-a half years and really likes it. The care is excellent and she wants for nothing.
“She was so thrilled to get a card from the Queen. We used to laugh about it and I’d say you get to be a 100 and get your royal card but she’d laugh and say no way. Well she made it and we are so pleased for her.”
Esther’s daughter-in-law, Val Stevens, the widow of Thomas, took her mother-in-law on her one and only foreign trip.
She said: “Thomas always promised his mum he’d take her to France to see the chateaux. As Thomas didn’t make it I decided I’d take her and we went in 1989. She really enjoyed it especially the Loire region.
“That was the only time she left the UK. They never had holidays, just days at the races which they were both passionate about.”
Val, who still farms with her son, Andrew, added: “She also liked the odd nip of whiskey too. She’s settled here at Highfield House and we can visit as often as we like. She seems happy and content.
“It’s been a lovely family party and it’s been nice seeing her so happy. She definitely loves the card she received from the Queen who I think she saw once at Ascot.”
Mrs Stevens puts her long life down to her positive outlook on life, having a good strong family and the odd glass of whisky!
She said: “It’s been a lovely day. I’m so pleased to have received a card from the Queen. I never thought I’d manage that. It’s been very nice having all my family here to help me celebrate.”
According to Highfield House senior care practitioner Laura Shone, Mrs Stevens is lovely lady and always has a story to tell.
She said: “We are all very fond of Esther. She always has a smile on her face and loves telling us tales from her days on the farm or about her family. She a pleasure to care for and is very settled here.”
Manager Tracey Smith, has grown very fond of Mrs Stevens.
She said: “She has led a full and very active life and it’s a pleasure to care for her. She is content here at Highfield House and I know the staff are equally fond of her and love listening to her farming and family stories.
“It been fabulous having Esther’s extended family along for a special celebration which I know Esther will have really enjoyed.”
It all happened in 1915:
Mrs Stevens was born just 17 days after Frank Sinatra’s birth and just a few months after Orson Welles came into the world.
The outlaw Frank James, brother of Jesse James, died in 1915 as did cricketer W G Grace and composer Charles Beach Hawley, who died aged 57 the very day Esther was born.
The First World War was in its second year with British forces engaged in battles around Ypres, Artois and Vosges.
The Prime Minister at the time of Mrs Stevens’s birth was Herbert Henry Asquith. She has seen 21 PMs come and go and four monarchs – George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II.
Sheffield United beat Chelsea 3-0 in the 1915 FA Cup final which was played at Old Trafford and was the last final to be held for four years due to the First World War.
Pommernn, ridden by Steve Donoghue, won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the wartime substitutes for the Epsom Derby and the St. Leger Stakes to win a version of the English Triple Crown.
Ally Slopper, ridden by jockey Jack Anthony, won the Grand National in the last race held at Aintree until 1919 and after the end of the First World War.
Top music stars of 1915 included John McCormack, who had a massive hit with It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary; The Peerless Quartet, whose 1915 hits included, Cows May Come and Cows May Go But The Bull Goes on Forever and Billy Murray who had a radio and music hall hit with ‘Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers’.