Oldest living Queenslander turns 109
Brisbane great great grandma Evelyn Vigor celebrates her 109th birthday on 9 January 2014 as the oldest living Queenslander and oldest voter.
It is also the day her brother Walter Davidson turns 100 years old and her only grandson Jason Tilse celebrates his 39th birthday.
The Laidley-born centenarian wasn’t expected to live when she was born six weeks premature on a lucerne farm on 9 January 1906. The doctor wrapped her tiny body in cotton wool, placed her in a wooden box and told her parents to “hope for the best”.
“I didn’t give up easily, I’m still here,” Evelyn says with a wry smile. With failing hearing but a sharp mind, Evelyn remembers fondly the early days in Queensland. The horse lover and champion show jumper was still riding in her mid eighties. In her nineties she recovered from two fractured hips and breast cancer at 102.
The eldest of nine, Evelyn has outlived her three children and all of her siblings. She has 12 grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren and three great great grandchildren with another on the way.
“Don’t worry. If you can’t fix it, forget it,” she says is the secret to an extraordinary long life. “And I just depend on the Lord to carry me through.”
The former Post Master General switchboard operator from South Brisbane met her Kingaroy dairy farming husband at the Ekka in 1929 when she was 23 and married him two years later during the Great Depression. This was despite her parents concern about the 15 years age difference. She married James Edward Vigor a WWI Digger who enlisted at the Enoggera Army Barracks a couple of days before his future wife’s 10th birthday. He served in the Australian Imperial Force in France with the 49th and 52nd Battalions . They were married for 50 years until James’ death in 1981. Evelyn lived on her own since then and when her Eagle Junction flat became “too cold” at 104 she decided to move into Carinity Aged Care – Clifford at Wooloowin.
As we mark the Centenary of WWI in 2015, Evelyn knocks on the door of an elite global group of so-called supercentenarians, or people who live past the age of 110. There is only one living supercentenarian in Australia – an Indian-born Victorian woman – and only around 300 in the world.
In a rare event Evelyn will celebrate more than 200 years of life with housemate and centenarian Klara Puodziunas as they are both officially inducted into the 100 Club at their home at Carinity Aged Care – Clifford. Klara turned 100 years old three weeks ago (19 December). Statistically Australians can expect to live to around 80 years of age and typically women outlive men. While life expectancies continue to rise, the 100-year mark remains a tremendous milestone that only 3,300 living Australians have been able to reach.
When Evelyn was born, Alfred Deakin was Prime Minister, Brisbane was yet to be declared a city and Australia was on the verge of its first wireless radio transmission from the mainland to Tasmania. The world’s first feature length film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was being readied for its premier in Melbourne. And Orville and Wilbur Wright were perfecting their flying machine.
Evelyn was born in the same year as Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda motorcars, American cosmetics entrepreneur Estée Lauder and Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.