Use it or lose it, says Jean

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Jean McGregor marks her 100th birthday with family and friends this weekend, some of whom are travelling from as far as Australia, Auckland and Balclutha.

Jean’s only living brother, Colin, will be attending the birthday celebration at Rossburn in Rangiora, along with her children Barbara, Ian and Robert, seven grandchildren, five great grandchildren and one great, great grandson.

Two sister-in-laws, nephews and nieces will also be attending, with two granddaughters and a niece making a special trip from Australia.

Jean lives in her own home in Rangiora, having developed a great network of neighbours and friends who pop in with help and support whenever needed.

She moved to Rangiora in 1995 to a town house, to be closer to her daughter, and even today has an array of colourful flowers in her garden and a vege or two for the table, maintaining her gardens with the help of friends and family.

She regularly attends meetings and lunches with the Rangiora RSA, Rangiora Ladies Friendship Club and Grey Power.

Jean (nee Wilson), who is from a farming background, was born in Leeston on September 23, 1918. She had five brothers, and a sister who only lived for a short time.

The family moved from Leeston to Papakio, south of the Waitaki River, then to a farm at All Day Bay, a short distance from Kakanui, near Oamaru, where Jean attended Kakanui Primary School.

There, she rode horses to school with her brothers, following the hand-milking of a small herd of cows each morning.

Jean was involved in several community activities growing up, when time allowed outside her farming activities, such as basketball as it was called in those days, in which she represented North Otago.

An old photograph uncovered by her family reveals she was the North Otago carnival queen one year.

Jean married Jack McGregor on March 1, 1941, at Oamaru. While Jack was away at war, Jean worked in the Colgate factory at Petone. On his return, they lived in Kakanui, where Jean worked thinning grapes for local growers.

In 1945 they moved to Nelson, where Jean looked after an elderly woman, while Jack worked in a grocery store.

They later moved back to Kakanui and bought a carrying business. This was sold a few years later when they bought a glasshouse property growing tomatoes, grapes and vegetables.

They both worked long hours. Jean was able to use her expertise thinning grapes along with the picking and packing of tomatoes, in-between raising a family.

In 1958 they moved to Christchurch, where she was a fulltime mum and the taxi for her family’s numerous sporting activities and interests. With Jack, she also maintained an impressive garden.

After the family grew up, Jean worked for Nurse Maude looking after the elderly in the Riccarton area.

By then, canaries had become a love for Jean. She bred and showed several varieties, collecting a stockpile of ribbons and awards. She became a respected judge, travelling to judge at bird shows.

Jack died in 1993 and Jean has lived on her own since.

Jean has been a great seamstress over the years, sewing clothes for many nieces. She still knits jerseys and socks for her great grandchildren. Tapestry work and knitting are still great hobbies for her. She spends many hours at these activities keeping the “mind working”, she says.

Jean says the secret to a long and healthy life is “use it or lose it”. Jean has applied this theory and patiently came back from several setbacks in recent years.

She loves her sport, especially following the Canterbury provincial side, the Crusaders, All Blacks, the Canterbury Tactics netball squad and the Silver Ferns, in fact, most sports that happen to be on Sky Television.