Mae's young at heart

Mae Hawkes, 105, looks at a card from the Queen she received in 2014. Photo: Chris Callinan.

This story begins with the tale of two ladies – one with hairy legs and another who turns 106 this week.

We’re talking about Tauranga’s Mae Hawkes and her favourite horse named Lady.

Mae used to ride Lady to school in the King Country. “Horses were as much a part of our lives as cars are today. Our best friends were horses, certainly for me.” The best of them all, was Lady.

Mae’s family lived 10 miles away from the nearest village, so they either walked or went by horseback.

“My older sister and I went to the dances 10 miles away,” says Mae. “We rode to a friend’s place, changed our clothes, went to the dance, back to the friends place to change again, and rode home in time for my sister to go to the cow shed in the morning and me to cut the school lunches. There was no sleep.”

This was just one of the special memories Mae shares with us ahead of her 106th birthday on October 3.

We want to know more about her long life, how many children she has and how she met her husband.  

“I had more than one,” she giggles. The first one was a school teacher and the other an insurance agent. “So I got well educated,” she laughs.

But the details on how they met are fuzzy. “It’s was a long time ago for one person to try and remember. But my memory’s not too bad.” She pauses. “It’s not too good either.

“There’s more than 100 years of memories, more than 100 years of them. You can’t expect me to remember.”

Of course, it’s forgiving considering she’s almost 106. “I can’t help being what age I am,” she laughs.

“I completely forgot I had a birthday coming up. I didn’t think I’d make 106 but I’ve got to the stage where I don’t care. I’ve done well enough.”

She sure has. In her 106th year, Mae is hard of hearing, her eyesight is fading and she can no longer walk without assistance.

But just as she said, she’s still here. “Even if I can’t see or hear very well, I can still talk.”

Mae has six brothers and sisters and she’s the only surviving sibling. “I defied them all,” she laughs.

“Out of the six of us I was the one mum didn’t expect to still be here. I suffered badly from bronchitis. But I’m still here,” she laughs.

“My eldest daughter is what, 86? That sounds ridiculous,” laughs Mae.

There’s photos of her grandchildren and great grandchildren pinned to her bedroom wall at Arcadia Manor Lifecare Estate. They’re an attractive family with beautiful complexions just like their nan.

“Well, I don’t see how they can because most of them are step-children,” laughs Mae. She does have wonderful skin.

“A lot of people ask me what I do to keep my skin,” says Mae. “I’ve always had a pale complexion and when I was younger people used to remark on that.

“My mother and father were both English, so I think I probably started off with a good English complexion.”

She’s never been able to tan, she’d just burn in the sun. “So I stayed away from the sun, I was never the sort of teenager who wants to get a tan.”

Mae wasn’t much of a party girl either. “I was never a drinker. I never liked beer or whiskey, and I didn’t like people who dowsed themselves in too much either,” she laughs. “I didn’t like people who got silly.”

She plants a warning gaze this way, but I explain this reporter is responsible. “Good, well you keep it up.”

So, is no beer or spirits her secret to good skin and a long and happy life? “I don’t know what’s kept me alive. But something has hasn’t it?” says Mae.

“I just think you’ve got to keep smiling. There’s lots of things that could’ve stopped me smiling but what’s the use?

“You’ve got to accept what the good Lord sends and make the best of it. So, remember that.”

We will Mae. We’ll share a big smile for you on your 106th birthday.