Gwen Celebrates Centenary Birthday
Born on 28th February 1921, the same year that Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for Physics and Coco Chanel introduced ‘Chanel No. 5’, Gwen Smith celebrated her 100th birthday at Dene Holm Residential Care Home in Northfleet on Sunday.
The eldest of three siblings, Gwen was born in Orsett, Essex but moved to Gravesend as a young child. Her father was a seed merchant with shops in Gravesend, Northfleet and Dartford, which Gwen later worked in.
She attended Rosherville School in Northfleet and passed her entrance exams for Gravesend Grammar School with dreams of being an auditor but her father had other ideas, so she left school at 14-years-old to work in his shops.
A keen dancer, Gwen performed at many local events, including at the Blue Circle Factory Club, a recreational hall in Northfleet, and one of the last performances at Rosherville Gardens with a troupe of dancers.
Gwen met her husband Ron when she was aged 16, an apprentice electrician at Blue Circle Cement Works. He was called up in August 1939, aged 18 and went on to joint the Royal Engineers. The pair married in May 1940, when Ron managed to get special leave of just eight hours whilst stationed at the Isle of Grain. They married in St James Church, Gravesend but with Ron immediately sent to serve overseas, they didn’t meet again for another five years.
Gwen and Ron stayed in the Gravesend/Northfleet area all their lives, bringing up their two daughters, Gloria and Sandra. Their daughter, Sandra, was the last girl born to the family as today, Gwen has five grandsons, eight great-grandsons and six step great grandsons!
Once their children had grown up, Gwen spent time working for the civil service in London, at Gravesend Grammar School and Hall Road Girls’ School. The couple enjoyed travel, visiting many countries during their time together, including trips to see relatives in America.
Today, Gwen lives at Dene Holm Care Home in Northfleet. Her family describe her as “independent and sometimes feisty”, whilst the staff at Dene Holm say, “Gwen is a lovely lady, she is always smiling, and she knows just what she wants. She loves reminiscing about the places she visited and she’s also a keen Arsenal fan! Gwen had a wonderful day, and it was great to see her so happy on the video call with her family.”
Gwen’s family made sure her special day was a success, despite the current lockdown, sending cake, balloons and bunting in, as well as ensuring the safe delivery of some very special post from Buckingham Palace. After a day of opening presents and video calls with family, Gwen enjoyed a buffet tea, followed by a well-deserved nap!
Her family said: “It’s been extremely upsetting not being able to visit mum during the pandemic but with the wonderful help of Lea-Ann, the home’s activity coordinator, we’ve been able to keep in touch with video calls.
“We really appreciate how hard the carers are working to keep the residents safe during this terrible time and we look forward to being able to visit mum again soon.”